The door has been opened for dozens of companies to challenge decisions by the European Commission’s competition regulator after a court ruled that it had wrongly blocked a merger between French electrical giant, Schneider, and its rival Legrand. The European Court of First Instance said the EC must pay compensation to Schneider – the first time that has happened.The court used strong words in its ruling accusing the Commission of “grave and manifest failure” in its handling of the case and saying “Schneider must be partially compensated for the loss.’‘
Schneider wanted almost 1.7 billion euros damages in the case which has been going on for five years. The amount it gets has still to be determined, but the European Commission could appeal against the decision. The commission had originally ruled that the merger of the two French companies would weaken competition in European markets for low-voltage electrical equipment. The court’s decision surprised competition lawyers in Brussels, who described it as “astounding” and even “scandalous”.