Language of document : ECLI:EU:T:2016:733

Case T‑169/08 RENV

Dimosia Epicheirisi Ilektrismou AE (DEI)


European Commission

(Competition — Abuse of dominant position — Greek markets for the supply of lignite and of wholesale electricity — Decision finding an infringement of Article 86(1) EC in conjunction with Article 82 EC — Granting or maintaining in favour of a public undertaking of rights to exploit public deposits of lignite — Definition of the relevant markets — Existence of inequality of opportunity — Obligation to state reasons — Legitimate expectations — Misuse of powers — Proportionality)

Summary — Judgment of the General Court (First Chamber), 15 December 2016

1.      Competition — Dominant position — Relevant market — Delimitation — Criteria

(Art. 82 EC; Commission Notice 97/C 372/03, point 7)

2.      Competition — Dominant position — Relevant market — Geographical limits — Criteria — Market limited to a Member State

(Art. 82 EC)

3.      Competition — Public undertakings and undertakings enjoying special or exclusive rights granted by the Member States — Dominant position — Inequality of opportunity between the various economic operators by reason of a State measure — Said State measure unlawful per se

(Arts 82 EC and 86(1) EC)

4.      Acts of the institutions — Statement of reasons — Obligation — Scope — Decision to apply competition rules

(Art. 253 EC)

5.      Actions for annulment — Grounds — Lack of or inadequate statement of reasons — Separate ground from the one concerning substantive legality

(Arts 230 EC and 253 EC)

6.      EU law — Principles — Protection of legitimate expectations — Conditions and limits — Inaction by the Commission — Maintenance of an existing situation capable of being modified in the context of its wide discretion — No legitimate expectations

7.      EU law — Principles — Fundamental rights — Right to property — Restrictions — Lawfulness — Conditions

(Art. 295 EC)

8.      Actions for annulment — Grounds — Misuse of powers — Concept

(Art. 230 EC)

9.      EU law — Principles — Proportionality — Whether measure proportionate to its aim — Criteria for assessment

1.      Before it is possible to assess whether an undertaking such as the applicant has a dominant position within the meaning of Article 82 EC, it is necessary to define the relevant market, both from the point of view of the goods or services concerned and from the geographic point of view. The purpose of that market definition is to define the perimeter within which it must be assessed whether an undertaking is in a position to behave to an appreciable extent independently of its competitors, its customers and consumers.

For the purposes of defining the relevant market in order to apply Article 82 EC, the possibilities of competition must be assessed in the context of the market comprising the totality of the products which, with respect to their characteristics, are particularly suitable for satisfying constant needs and are only to a limited extent interchangeable with other goods or services; these possibilities of competition must also be assessed in the light of competitive conditions and the structure of supply and demand. As stated, in particular, in paragraph 7 of the Commission Notice on the definition of the relevant market for the purposes of Community competition law, the relevant product market therefore comprises all the products or services which are regarded as substitutable by the consumer, by reason of the products’ characteristics, their prices and their intended use.

(see paras 60, 61)

2.      For the purposes of applying Article 82 EC, the geographic market can thus be defined as the territory in which all traders operate under the same conditions of competition in so far as concerns the relevant goods or services. From that point of view, it is not necessary for the objective conditions of competition between traders to be perfectly homogeneous. It is sufficient if they are similar or sufficiently homogeneous. In addition, that market may be limited to a single Member State.

Thus, in examining whether an undertaking held a dominant position on the market for the supply of lignite in Greece, the Commission was entitled to delimit the market from the geographic point of view to lignite produced in Greece, the said undertaking having failed to show that imports of lignite from certain territories adjoining Greece intended for power stations close to the border constituted a real alternative source of supply to lignite deposits in Greece.

(see paras 62, 94)

3.      A system of undistorted competition can be guaranteed only if equality of opportunity is secured as between the various economic operators. It follows that if inequality of opportunity between economic operators, and thus distorted competition, is the result of a State measure, such a measure constitutes an infringement of Article 86(1) EC read with Article 82 EC.

In order to find the existence of an infringement of the combined provisions of Article 86(1) EC and Article 82 EC, the Commission is not required to demonstrate the impact of that infringement on consumers’ interests.

(see paras 114, 214)

4.      See the text of the decision.

(see para. 195)

5.      See the text of the decision.

(see para. 200)

6.      See the text of the decision.

(see paras 222, 223)

7.      See the text of the decision.

(see para. 231)

8.      See the text of the decision.

(see para. 233)

9.      See the text of the decision.

(see para. 240)