Court of Appeal upholds decision against publishing companies

Court of Appeal upholds decision against publishing companies

Borgarting Court of Appeal agrees with the Norwegian Competition Authority that the publishing companies Cappelen Damm and Gyldendal cooperated illegally and boycotted the distributor Interpress.

The publishers exchanged competitively sensitive information that led to a boycott of the distributor Interpress. The Court’s majority agrees with the Authority that the cooperation constituted a restriction of competition by object in violation of Section 10 of the Competition Act.

– We are satisfied with the ruling, which confirms that this type of infringement constitutes a serious violation of the Competition Act. The Court’s majority shares the Authority’s view that the violation in this case is particularly serious, and emphasises that the collective boycott was directed against one of only two operators in a market where the only real competitor was a company in which all the publishing companies had ownership interests. We are also pleased with the fact that the Court of Appeal has imposed higher fines than the court of first instance, says Legal Director Karin Stakkestad Laastad.

One judge disagreed with the majority opinion. The dissenting judge agreed that an agreement had been concluded between the publishing companies, but was of the opinion that the agreement did not restrict competition by object.

Cappelen Damm is by the Court of Appeal ordered to pay a fine of 7.277 million NOK and Gyldendal a fine of 6.305 million NOK. However, the Court of Appeal adjusted the multiplier applied by the Authority to reflect the duration of the infringement, and therefore adjusted the fines the Authority imposed in its decision accordingly. The parent companies of Cappelen Damm and Gyldendal were held jointly and severally liable for the infringement committed by their respective subsidiaries.

As the Court’s majority found in favour of the Authority in the main, the publishing companies were ordered to pay the Authority’s costs incurred at first instance and on appeal.

Read the judgment here (in Norwegian):

This is the case:

  • The Competition Authority carried out inspections at the premises of the companies concerned on 8 and 9 April 2014.
  • After the inspections, the Authority carried out a number of interviews with employees of the involved companies and reviewed a significant amount of documents and data.
  • A Statement of Objections was sent to the companies on 28 June 2016.
  • The publishing companies replied to the Statement of Objections in September 2016.
  • The Competition Authority adopted the final decision in this case on 22 March 2017.
  • One of the involved companies, Schibsted/Vigmostad & Bjørke, accepted the fine.
  • Gyldendal, Cappelen Damm and Aschehoug brought an appeal before the Oslo District Court.
  • The case was pleaded in the Oslo District Court from 11 April to 9 May 2018.
  • The judgment from the Oslo City Court was issued on 21 June 2018.
  • Aschehough accepted the judgment.
  • Gyldendal and Cappelen Damm appealed to the Borgarting Court of Appeal.
  • The case was pleaded in the Borgarting Court of Appeal from 5 May to 29 May 2020.
Portrettfoto av Karin Stakkestad Laastad, juridisk direktør i Konkurransetilsynet.
Legal Director, Karin Stakkestad Laastad.