JUDGMENT OF THE GENERAL COURT (First Chamber)

28 May 2020 (*)

(Environment — Fluorinated greenhouse gases — Regulation (EU) No 517/2014 — Placing of hydrofluorocarbons on the market — Decision finding that an undertaking exceeded the quota allocated to it and imposing on it a penalty — Correction of the electronic registry for quotas — Transfer of quota — Authorisation to use a quota — Principle of good administration)

In Case T‑739/18,

Darment Oy, established in Helsinki (Finland), represented by C. Ginter, lawyer,

applicant,

v

European Commission, represented by J.-F. Brakeland, A.C. Becker and M. Jauregui Gomez, acting as Agents,

defendant,

Application based on Article 263 TFEU and seeking the annulment of the Commission decision of 16 October 2018 finding that the applicant exceeded in 2017 its quota for the placing of hydrofluorocarbons on the market and imposing on it a penalty consisting in the reduction of its quota for the next quota allocation period by 31 370 tonnes of CO2 equivalent,

THE GENERAL COURT (First Chamber),

composed of H. Kanninen, President, M. Jaeger (Rapporteur) and O. Porchia, Judges,

Registrar: E. Coulon,

gives the following

Judgment

 Background to the dispute

1        Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a category of fluorinated greenhouse gas used, in particular, in refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, aerosols and the manufacture of insulating foam.

2        In the fight against greenhouse gas emissions, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted Regulation (EU) No 517/2014 of 16 April 2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases and repealing Regulation (EC) No 842/2006 (OJ 2014 L 150, p. 195).

3        Gradually reducing the quantities of HFCs that can be placed on the EU market has been identified as the most effective and cost-efficient way of reducing emissions of those substances in the long term.

4        In order to implement that gradual reduction, Regulation No 517/2014 provides that the European Commission is to determine every year, inter alia, a maximum quantity of HFCs that may be placed on the Union market and HFC quotas which producers or importers are allowed to place on the market. In that context, the Commission also set up, in accordance with Article 17 of that regulation, an electronic registry for quotas for placing HFCs on the market (‘the HFC registry’) and ensures its operation. Producers and importers who have been allocated a quota for the placing of HFCs on the market are to register with the registry.

5        Furthermore, it should be noted that Regulation No 517/2014 applies both to the placing of bulk HFCs on the market and to the placing of equipment pre-charged with HFCs on the market.

6        In that regard, Article 14(1) of Regulation No 517/2014 stipulates that, from 1 January 2017, refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment pre-charged with HFCs shall not be placed on the market unless the HFCs pre-charged into that equipment are accounted for within the quota system.

7        Regulation No 517/2014 further provides for the possibility of making a quota allocated to an importer or producer available to another importer or producer.

8        In that regard, Article 18 of that regulation distinguishes between, on the one hand, the transfer of quotas, covered by paragraph 1 thereof and applicable to the placing of bulk HFCs on the market and, on the other hand, the authorisation to use a quota, covered by paragraph 2 thereof and applicable to the placing of equipment pre-charged with HFCs on the market, as referred to in Article 14 of that regulation.

9        Pursuant to Article 18(1) of Regulation No 517/2014, any producer or importer for whom a reference value has been determined pursuant to Article 16(1) or (3) of that regulation and who has been allocated a quota in accordance with Article 16(5) of that regulation may transfer that quota for all or any quantities to another producer or importer in the Union.

10      Furthermore, pursuant to Article 18(2) of Regulation No 517/2014 any producer or importer having received its quota pursuant to Article 16(1) and (3) of that regulation or to whom a quota has been transferred pursuant to Article 18(1) of that regulation may authorise another undertaking to use its quota for the purpose of Article 14 of that regulation. It is apparent from the third subparagraph of Article 18(2) of Regulation No 517/2014 that the respective quantities of HFCs are deemed to be placed on the market by the authorising producer or importer at the moment of the authorisation.

11      Pursuant to Article 19(1) of Regulation No 517/2014, the undertakings receiving quotas are to report to the Commission data on quantities of HFCs produced in or imported into the Union. In addition, under Article 19(6) of that regulation, each undertaking which, under paragraph 1 thereof, has reported on the placing on the market 10 000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent or more of HFCs during the preceding calendar year is to ensure that the accuracy of the data is verified by an independent auditor.

12      Lastly, under Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014, undertakings that have exceeded their quota for placing HFCs on the market, allocated in accordance with Article 16(5) or transferred to them in accordance with Article 18 of that regulation, may only be allocated a reduced quota allocation for the allocation period after the excess has been detected; the amount of reduction is calculated as 200% of the amount by which the quota was exceeded.

13      The applicant, Darment Oy, is a Finnish undertaking active in the HFC sector.

14      On 4 June 2015, the applicant registered in the HFC registry as an importer of equipment pre-charged with HFCs and as an undertaking placing bulk HFCs on the market.

15      The Commission allocated to the applicant, pursuant to Article 16(2) of Regulation No 517/2014, quotas for placing HFCs on the market for the years 2016 to 2018, that is, 47 690 tonnes of CO2 equivalent for 2016, 34 060 tonnes of CO2 equivalent for 2017 and 11 650 tonnes of CO2 equivalent for 2018.

16      On 10 August 2017, two Estonian undertakings, Arctica Ref OÜ and Arctica Solutions OÜ, authorised, under Article 18(2) of Regulation No 517/2014, the applicant to use their quotas of 14 929 and 762 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, respectively.

17      In 2017, the applicant placed 49 745 tonnes of CO2 equivalent of bulk HFCs on the market. During that period, it did not place any equipment pre-charged with HFCs on the market.

18      According to the applicant, in March 2018, as the deadline for declaring the amount of HFCs placed on the market in 2017 was approaching, Arctica Ref, Arctica Solutions and the applicant itself discovered that an error had been made when making available the quotas of Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions. Those two undertakings discovered that, while they had intended to transfer their quotas to the applicant with a view to placing bulk HFCs on the market, they had accidentally authorised use of their quotas with a view to placing equipment pre-charged with HFCs on the market.

19      On 28 March 2018, a representative of Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions sent the Commission an email in which he mentioned that those two companies had intended to transfer to the applicant quotas for placing bulk HFCs on the market in 2017 but, because of an ‘issue’, they had authorised the applicant to use their quotas for placing equipment pre-charged with HFCs on the market. Accordingly, he asked the Commission whether that issue could be rectified by allowing the applicant to use those quotas for placing bulk HFCs on the market in 2017.

20      The Commission replied by email of the same date, pointing out, in particular, the difference between the transfer of a quota and the authorisation to use a quota and stating that it would examine ‘in depth’ the reports relating to the placing of HFCs on the market in 2017. The Commission further requested that the applicant send it an email detailing the request made by the applicant and how the procedure was conducted.

21      By email of the same date, the applicant stated, inter alia, that it required an additional quota for placing bulk HFCs on the market in 2017 and, in that context, it had been authorised to use the quotas of Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions of 14 929 and 762 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, respectively. However, it became clear that the applicant could not make use of those quotas because they had not been authorised for placing bulk HFCs on the market but only for placing equipment pre-charged with HFCs on the market. The applicant explained in that regard that it did not import such equipment into the EU market. It therefore asked the Commission to take its explanations into account in the Commission’s verification.

22      By email of 10 April 2018, the Commission replied to the applicant’s email of 28 March 2018, informing the applicant that it would have a ‘deeper look’ at its explanations in the course of the verification period.

23      On 19 June 2018, the applicant submitted, under Article 19 of Regulation No 517/2014, its verification report for 2017, which showed that, in that year, it had placed 49 745 tonnes of CO2 equivalent of bulk HFCs on the market.

24      On 3 July 2018, the applicant received an automated email from the Commission informing it that the reported data were under scrutiny as part of the verification process, which could result in the imposition of penalties in accordance with Article 25 of Regulation No 517/2014. That email also requested that the applicant submit a verification report ‘by 30 June 2018’.

25      By email of 5 July 2018, the applicant replied to the Commission that it had already provided explanations in that regard.

26      By email of 27 August 2018, the Commission drew the applicant’s attention to its previous messages, underlining the difference between the transfer of quotas and the authorisation to use a quota.

27      By letter of 16 October 2018 (‘the contested decision’), the Commission wrote to the applicant on the subject of ‘Compliance with Article 15(1) of Regulation No 517/2014’. The contested decision reads as follows:

‘… In your report, submitted under Article 19 of the aforementioned Regulation, it was stated that you have put on the market 49 475 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2017, even if your available quota was only 34 060 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Nor, in spite of our repeated requests, have you provided an independent auditor’s verification report, pursuant to Article 19(6) of Regulation [No 517/2014].

Pursuant to Article 25(2) of the Regulation [No 517/2014], for the next quota allocation period, the European Commission will reduce the quotas for all the quotas allocated to you by 31 370 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, [for example], according to Article 19 [of Regulation No 517/2014], 200% of the amount by which the quota was exceeded according to your report.

If you wish to oppose this reduction in the quota, we ask you to send your reasoned opinion within four weeks of receipt of this letter. You also have the right to bring an action for annulment based on Article 263 [TFEU] against the Commission within two months of receiving this letter …’

28      On 12 November 2018, the applicant informed the Commission that it disagreed with the reduction at issue and requested that it extend the deadline set in its letter of 16 October 2018 so that it could receive information from the Finnish authorities. The Commission refused that request on the same day.

29      On 12 December 2018, the applicant received an automated email from the Commission informing it that the quotas for 2019 had been uploaded to the HFC registry. It followed from that email that the quota received by the applicant for placing HFCs on the market in 2019 was 0 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

30      As regards the quotas for 2018, the applicant received, on 5 June 2018, an authorisation to use the quota of Arctica Ref of 275 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. A few hours later, the applicant amended its business profile in the HFC registry by deleting the reference to the import of equipment pre-charged with HFCs.

 Procedure and forms of order sought

31      By application lodged at the Court Registry on 17 December 2018, the applicant brought the present action.

32      By way of a measure of organisation of procedure of 12 December 2019, questions were put to the Commission to be answered in writing, to which it replied within the prescribed time limit. The applicant did not respond to the request to comment on the Commission’s replies.

33      On 27 March 2020, the applicant brought an application for interim measures seeking a suspension of the contested decision.

34      In the present action, the applicant claims, in essence, that the Court should:

–        annul the contested decision;

–        order the Commission to pay the costs.

35      The Commission contends that the Court should:

–        dismiss the action;

–        order the applicant to pay the costs.

 Law

36      In support of its action, the applicant raises two pleas in law, alleging, first, infringement of Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014 and, second, a manifest error of assessment in the application of that article.

37      By its first plea, the applicant submits, in essence, that the Commission infringed Regulation No 517/2014 by imposing a penalty, under Article 25(2), based on the data contained in the HFC registry even though the applicant had raised a claim to have those data corrected. The Commission thus imposed a penalty based on data the erroneous nature of which had been notified to it in good time.

38      The second plea consists of three complaints. By its first complaint, the applicant claims, inter alia, that the Commission made a manifest error of assessment in its application of Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014 by refusing to consider the applicant’s explanations regarding the existence of erroneous data contained in the HFC registry. By its second complaint, the applicant alleges that the Commission made a manifest error of assessment in justifying the penalty on the ground that the applicant had failed to submit, in accordance with Article 19(6) of Regulation No 517/2014, a report prepared by an independent auditor. By its third complaint, the applicant alleges that the Commission made a manifest error when calculating the amount of the penalty.

39      Furthermore, in support of those pleas, the applicant submits that the provisions of EU secondary law should be interpreted in the light of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular Article 41 thereof, which enshrines the right to good administration.

40      The Commission disputes the applicant’s line of argument.

41      As the first plea and the first complaint in the second plea overlap to a large extent, they should be examined together.

42      In the present case, it is common ground that, for 2017, the Commission allocated to the applicant a quota for placing HFCs on the market of 34 060 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

43      It is also common ground that the applicant placed 49 745 tonnes of CO2 equivalent of bulk HFCs on the market in 2017, as is apparent from its report of 19 June 2018. Although, in that regard, the contested decision adopts the figure of 49 475 tonnes of CO2 equivalent of HFCs, that was proved to be a clerical mistake.

44      Similarly, it is common ground that the HFC registry shows that, for 2017, Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions authorised the applicant to use their quotas of 14 929 and 762 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, respectively. Given that the applicant did not place any equipment pre-charged with HFCs on the market in 2017 (see paragraph 17 above), it did not make use of those authorisations to use their quotas.

45      Accordingly, the Commission implicitly found, in the contested decision, that the applicant had exceeded its quota for 2017 by 15 685 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, that amount corresponding to the difference between the 49 745 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which it had placed on the market, and the 34 060 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which had been allocated to it. The Commission therefore found that the quota for the next allocation period should be reduced by 31 370 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, representing, in accordance with the second subparagraph of Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014, 200% of the amount by which the applicant exceeded the quota.

46      For the purpose of examining the contested decision, it should be recalled that, under Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014, undertakings that have exceeded their quota for placing HFCs on the market, allocated in accordance with Article 16(5) or transferred to them in accordance with Article 18 of that regulation, may only be allocated a reduced quota allocation for the allocation period after the excess has been detected; the amount of reduction is to be calculated as 200% of the amount by which the quota was exceeded.

47      As the Commission maintains, Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014 does not provide it with any discretion as regards the penalty imposed, which is the automatic consequence of a quota being exceeded.

48      However, in the present case, the question is whether the Commission was entitled to find, without infringing Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014, as interpreted in the light of the principle of good administration enshrined in Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, that the applicant exceeded its quota for placing bulk HFCs on the market by 15 685 tonnes of CO2 equivalent even though the applicant had provided explanations regarding the existence of erroneous data contained in the HFC registry.

49      In that regard, Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014 provides that the penalty is imposed for the allocation period after ‘the excess has been detected’.

50      It follows that the penalty is imposed on the basis of an objective situation, that is, the operator in question exceeds the quota allocated or transferred to it.

51      Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014 does not specify the information, which the Commission is to take into account in order to find that an economic operator has exceeded its quota.

52      However, as the Commission maintains, it may be inferred from the system of Regulation No 517/2014 that, as a rule, it is to take into account, first, the data contained in the HFC registry, set up and maintained by it in accordance with Article 17 of that regulation and, second, the data reported by operators in accordance with Article 19 of that regulation.

53      Nevertheless, although, as a rule, the Commission is to rely on the data in the HFC registry with regard to the quota available to operators, it should be pointed out that, when the party concerned claims that those data are incorrect, Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014 cannot relieve the Commission of its obligation to observe the principle of good administration enshrined in Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

54      The guarantees afforded by the principle of good administration include the duty of the competent institution to examine carefully and impartially all the relevant aspects of the individual case (judgments of 30 September 2003, Atlantic Container Line and Others v Commission, T‑191/98 and T‑212/98 to T‑214/98, EU:T:2003:245, paragraph 404, and of 27 September 2012, Shell Petroleum and Others v Commission, T‑343/06, EU:T:2012:478, paragraph 170).

55      In the present case, it should be recalled that, on 28 March 2018, both the applicant and Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions notified the Commission that the applicant had erroneously received the authorisation to use the quotas of the latter two companies instead of being transferred those quotas, those companies having intended to transfer their quotas to the applicant for placing bulk HFCs on the market. Thus, the undertakings concerned requested that the Commission rectify the issue raised by altering the authorisations.

56      The Commission replied to Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions on the same day, stating that it would examine ‘in depth’ the reports relating to the placing of HFCs on the market in 2017. Furthermore, the Commission requested that the applicant send it an email detailing the request made by the applicant and how the procedure was conducted.

57      In reply to the applicant’s explanations sent by email of the same day, the Commission stated on 10 April 2018 that it would have a ‘deeper look’ at them.

58      The Commission thus indicated to the applicant that a correction of the data contained in the HFC registry was possible and that it would carry out an examination based on the information submitted by the applicant and by Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions.

59      However, the contested decision merely finds that the applicant exceeded the quota, which had been allocated to it, and that it failed to submit a report verified by an independent auditor.

60      As regards the latter, it should be pointed out that the Commission acknowledged, during the proceedings before the General Court, that the applicant had submitted the report verified by an independent auditor within the time limit imposed.

61      By contrast, the contested decision does not refer to the notification of an ‘error’ on the part of the applicant and Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions, nor does it contain any explanation as to why the Commission failed to examine that notification or possibly to correct the data contained in the HFC registry.

62      Furthermore, the file clearly contains nothing capable of establishing that the Commission actually carried out a thorough analysis of the explanations, which had, however, been provided in good time both by Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions and by the applicant before the contested decision was adopted.

63      However, before it can be held that the Commission, in making its assessment, infringed its obligations under Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014, read in the light of the principle of good administration, it is also necessary to examine two arguments relating to the specific rules of Regulation No 517/2014, which the Commission has put forward before the Court in order to justify the contested decision.

64      First, the Commission contends that it is not possible for a correction to be made in the HFC registry. Second, the Commission maintains that it is not possible for an authorisation to use a quota to be turned into a quota transfer without circumventing the rules laid down in Article 18(2) of Regulation No 517/2014.

65      In the first place, as regards the Commission’s discretion to correct the data in the HFC registry, it should be pointed out that it is not a matter of examining whether the Commission was obliged, in the present case, to make the correction requested by the applicant. It is only a matter of examining whether, as the Commission maintains, there were reasons precluding the possibility of such a correction.

66      Initially, the Commission contended that Regulation No 517/2014 did not allow for the correction of the data in the HFC registry. However, in reply to a measure of organisation of procedure, the Commission then acknowledged that a correction was not categorically excluded.

67      Although no provision of Regulation No 517/2014 expressly provides for the possibility of a correction in respect of the data in the HFC registry, the fact remains that that regulation does not expressly prohibit such a correction either.

68      Moreover, Article 17(1) of Regulation No 517/2014 provides, in general terms, that the Commission ‘shall set up and ensure the operation of an electronic registry for quotas …’. Furthermore, Article 17(2) of Regulation No 517/2014 states that the Commission may, to the extent necessary, by means of implementing acts, ensure the smooth functioning of the registry.

69      Although the Commission no longer contends that a correction of the data in the HFC registry is excluded as a matter of principle, it alleges the existence of circumstances precluding correction in the present case.

70      Accordingly, first, the Commission suggests that the applicant acted in bad faith. The Commission enquires whether the applicant deliberately chose the authorisation to use quotas instead of the transfer of quotas and hoped that such a choice would not be detected. In that regard, the Commission observes that the applicant, in June 2018, accepted the authorisation to use a quota from Arctica Ref and, several hours later, amended its profile in the HFC registry to that of an importer of bulk HFCs only.

71      However, it must be pointed out that Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions brought to the Commission’s attention voluntarily and on their own initiative that their intention was to transfer quotas. That clearly contradicts the Commission’s assertions. In addition, as regards the fact that the applicant, in June 2018, accepted the authorisation to use a quota and then amended its business profile in the HFC registry, it should be pointed out that that matter relates to the quotas for 2018 and is therefore irrelevant to the examination of the situation relating to the quotas for 2017.

72      Second, the Commission maintains that the data in the HFC registry are correct in that they correspond with the declarations actually made by Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions.

73      It is true that, in the present case, those data are not inherently erroneous in that they correspond with the declarations made by Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions.

74      However, as Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions claim that they intended to transfer their quotas to the applicant for the purpose of placing bulk HFCs on the market, the alleged error is that the declarations made and registered in the HFC registry do not correspond with the intention of the applicant or with that of Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions. It is thus necessary to take into account an alleged error made by those companies when declaring that they would make their quotas available to the applicant.

75      Furthermore, the alleged error made by Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions was notified to the Commission both by those two companies and by the applicant. In addition, it should be pointed out that the applicant had needed those additional quotas for placing bulk HFCs on the market, while it had not needed an authorisation to use quotas for placing equipment pre-charged with HFCs on the market, quotas which it did not, moreover, subsequently use.

76      Third, it is necessary to reject the Commission’s argument that, although the declarations made in the HFC registry by the applicant and by Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions do not correspond with their authors’ intentions, that does not render the registration of those declarations in the HFC registry incorrect.

77      As is apparent from the explanations provided by the Commission itself, the making available of quotas either by the transfer of quota or by the authorisation to use a quota takes place between the seller and the buyer of the quota via the HFC registry and must be ‘validated’ by that registry.

78      Accordingly, the Commission’s argument that the intention of the parties to sell quota cannot be relevant would mean that the buyer and the seller would be obliged to carry out or simply abandon a transaction reported to the HFC registry that they did not want to carry out, which is contrary to their actual intention and the actual circumstances.

79      Fourth, it is necessary to reject the argument that the correction, requested by the applicant, of the declarations made to the HFC registry, is impossible in that it would also involve changes in the data reported by Arctica Ref for 2017.

80      In that regard, it is sufficient to point out that, on 28 March 2018, that is, before the end of the verification period, Arctica Ref and Arctica Solutions had expressly brought to the Commission’s attention the alleged error, which they had made in their declarations, so that there was nothing to preclude that error from being taken into account in good time and changes from being made in the reports of those undertakings relating to the preceding year pursuant to Article 19 of Regulation No 517/2014.

81      For the same reason, the Commission’s argument that it could not make any changes in 2018 to the data relating to 2017 must be rejected.

82      Fifth, the Commission also cannot validly contend that the applicant’s request should have been accompanied by supporting documents, such as the agreement relating to the transfer of quotas.

83      In that regard, it should be pointed out that the Commission may subject the possibility of correcting data in the HFC registry to certain formal or substantive requirements.

84      However, the Commission cannot refuse to correct data in the HFC registry by relying on requirements that it has never brought to the attention of the party concerned.

85      Lastly, sixth, the Commission’s argument that, if it made the correction requested by the applicant, it would be obliged, in line with the principle of equal treatment, to accept all similar requests made by other undertakings, thus risking the effective implementation of the HFC phase-down, appears to be greatly exaggerated, if not completely hypothetical.

86      It is apparent from the replies provided by the Commission that, since the establishment of the HFC registry, it had never been requested to turn a transfer of a quota into an authorisation to use a quota or vice-versa. Accordingly, in the present case, as the Commission received only one correction request, notified before the end of the verification period, and, as it indicated that it would examine that request in depth, it cannot refuse to examine that request, as it is responsible for ensuring the proper functioning of the HFC registry and for monitoring the effective implementation of Regulation No 517/2014.

87      In the second place, as regards the argument alleging a circumvention of the rules laid down in Article 18(2) of Regulation No 517/2014, it must be held that the categorical refusal to make the requested correction cannot either be justified for the purpose of preventing the requirements laid down in Regulation No 517/2014 from being circumvented.

88      In that regard, the Commission contends that Arctica Solutions fell within the scope of Article 16(2) of Regulation No 517/2014 and that, on that basis, pursuant to Article 18 of that regulation, it could not transfer any quota. It could only authorise the use of its quota for the purpose of Article 14 of that regulation and subject to the condition that it physically supplies the corresponding quantities of HFCs.

89      However, there is no need to examine whether, in fact, as the Commission maintains, Arctica Solutions could not, for legal reasons, transfer its quotas to the applicant.

90      It suffices to note that, in any event, Arctica Ref, which also intended to transfer its quota of 14 929 tonnes of CO2 equivalent to the applicant, could carry out that transfer.

91      Accordingly, the Commission’s argument alleging a circumvention of the provisions of Regulation No 517/2014 is too general to justify a categorical refusal to make a correction in respect of the data in the HFC registry, in particular a correction in respect of the transfer of quota between Arctica Ref and the applicant.

92      It follows from all the foregoing that the Commission has failed to demonstrate, in the present case, that there are reasons precluding the correction, requested by the applicant, of the data in the HFC registry.

93      Accordingly, in the circumstances of the present case, the Commission could not, without infringing Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014, interpreted in the light of the principle of good administration, impose a penalty on the applicant without examining carefully and impartially all the matters brought to its attention.

94      Given that the penalty is determined, in accordance with the second subparagraph of Article 25(2) of Regulation No 517/2014, based on the amount by which the quota allocated or transferred was exceeded, the contested decision, by which the Commission reduced the quota allocated to the applicant for the next allocation period by 31 370 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, must be annulled.

95      As the first plea and the first complaint in the second plea are well founded, the contested decision must be annulled without it being necessary to examine the other complaints raised in support of the second plea.

 Costs

96      Under Article 134(1) of the Rules of Procedure of the General Court, the unsuccessful party is to be ordered to pay the costs if they have been applied for in the successful party’s pleadings.

97      Since the Commission has been unsuccessful, it must be ordered to pay the costs, in accordance with the form of order sought by the applicant.

On those grounds,

THE GENERAL COURT (First Chamber)

hereby:

1.      Annuls the European Commission decision of 16 October 2018 finding that Darment Oy exceeded in 2017 its quota for the placing of hydrofluorocarbons on the market and imposing on it a penalty consisting in the reduction of its quota for the next quota allocation period by 31 370 tonnes of CO2 equivalent;


2.      Orders the Commission to pay the costs.


Kanninen

Jaeger

Porchia

Delivered in open court in Luxembourg on 28 May 2020.


E. Coulon

 

M. van der Woude

Registrar

 

President


*      Language of the case: English.