Dismissal Goes Before the French Competition Authority for Avis, Europcar and Hertz
Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Citer, Sixt and ADA as well as 12 airports including Aéroports de Paris (ADP) and the airports of Nice, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier and Biarritz have just seen the case brought before the French Competition Authority dismissed.
After the inspections and dawn raids carried out at several car rental firms in January 2008 by the DGCCRF, the public body in charge of competition, the Ministry of Economy referred the matter to the French Competition Authority on April 14, 2009 accusing Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Sixt and ADA, as well as the 12 main French airports, of anticompetitive practices. In 2015, the parties were notified of two objections by the Competition Authority’s investigative services:
- on the one hand, an objection concerning statistical information exchanges concerning the short-term car rental activity in each of the 12 French airports targeted, the latter being deemed to have facilitated this disclosure of information and, as such, taken part in alleged, prohibited anticompetitive information exchanges;
- on the other hand, an objection concerning a suspected practice of applying a surcharge in stations on the French market in collusion with competitors, for which Avis, Europcar and Hertz were charged.
The inspections and dawn raids carried out at the Avis and Europcar premises were cancelled respectively on June 12, 2014 by the First President of the Court of Appeal of Versailles and on May 6, 2015 by the First President of the Court of Appeal of Paris.
In its decision handed down on February 27, 2017, the French Competition Authority accepted the arguments put forward by the car rental firms and the airports and ruled, for the first objection, that the information shared by the airports did not make it possible to reduce the commercial autonomy of the car rental firms by revealing the commercial strategy of their competitors and that they had therefore committed no infraction. For the second objection, it considered that there were insufficient elements in the file to prove the existence of any collusion to establish a pre-determined strategy to apply a surcharge at stations at the end of the year 2005, so that once again, no infraction had been committed by the companies concerned.
The Competition Authority therefore dismissed the charges on both counts and cleared the companies of any wrongdoing.
Avis was advised by Baker McKenzie in Paris with a team composed of Léna Sersiron, partner, Elodie Massin, counsel, and Thomas Guérin and Alexia Delaunay, associates.
Europcar was advised by Bredin Prat with a team composed of Olivier Billard and Pierre Honoré, partners, and Camille Vardon and Arthur Helfer, associates.
Hertz was advised by White & Case in Paris with a team comprising Yann Utzschneider, partner, and Mickaël Rivollier, Juliette Goyer, Estelle Jégou, Emily Xueref-Poviac and Laetitia Ghebali. Jean-Paul Tran Thiet (alumni) also worked on the case.
ADP was advised by Bredin Prat with a team composed of Hugues Calvet and Yelena Trifounovitch, partners and Irène Madero, associate.
The airport of Nice was represented by Véronique Selinsky, CCI de Montpellier by Stéphane Destours, the airport of Nantes by Olivier de Juvigny, the airport of Rennes by Thibault Reymond and the airport of Biarritz by Iñaki Saint Esteben.