Court rejects Canal Plus case against competition watchdog

France’s constitutional court has rejected Canal Plus’s claims that the country’s competition regulator acted unconstitutionally when it imposed remedies on the pay TV operator relating to its alleged failure to meet undertakings concerning its 2007 merger with TPS.

The case was referred to the court by the Conseil d’État following an appeal by Canal Plus and Vivendi. The court however ruled that the competition authority did not have the power to impose disproportionate penalties and had not gone beyond its remit, as claimed by the pay TV operator. It also ruled that the authority’s procedures and practices conformed to general principles of impartiality and independence. Canal Plus had contested the authority’s impartiality on the grounds that the same team responsible for pursuing the case against it was also responsible for deciding which sanctions to impose.

Canal Plus said in a statement that the constitutional court’s decision would have now impact on the current hearing before the Conseil d’État itself, and that it was ultimately up to the Conseil d’État to decide on whether the sanctions imposed were justifiable and whether guarantees that the authority would act independently and impartially were guaranteed. Canal Plus is pursuing the case on two fronts by seeking a reversal of the authority’s €30 million fine and cancellation of authorisation of the 2007 merger on July 20 and by seeking a cancellation of the second authorisation of the merger with conditions three days later.