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Document 52009XX0627(05)

Final report of the hearing officer on the procedure in the Case COMP/F-1/38.338 — PO/Needles (Pursuant to Article 15 of Commission Decision 2001/462/EC, ECSC of 23 May 2001 on the terms of reference of hearing officers in certain competition proceedings — OJ L 162, 19.6.2001, p. 21 )

OJ C 147, 27.6.2009, p. 21–22 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)

27.6.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 147/21


Final report of the hearing officer on the procedure in the Case COMP/F-1/38.338 — PO/Needles

(Pursuant to Article 15 of Commission Decision 2001/462/EC, ECSC of 23 May 2001 on the terms of reference of hearing officers in certain competition proceedings — OJ L 162, 19.6.2001, p. 21)

2009/C 147/14

The draft decision gives rise to the following observations:

The present case arises out of information provided by a representative of Entaco Ltd and investigations pursuant to Article 14(3) of Council Regulation No 17 (1) carried out by the Commission on 7 and 8 November 2001 at the premises of several Community producers of hard and soft haberdashery and the German association of fastening technology producers VBT. During the said investigation and subsequent enquiries under Article 11 of Regulation No 17 the Commission discovered documentary evidence which indicated an infringement of Article 81(1) EC Treaty through agreements and concerted practices committed by the following undertakings:

William Prym GmbH and Co. KG and Prym Consumer GmbH & Co. KG (‘Prym’) Coats plc (now: Coats Holdings Ltd) and J & P Coats Ltd (‘Coats’), Entaco Group Ltd and Entaco Ltd. (‘Entaco’)

On 15 March 2004, the Commission addressed a Statement of Objections (‘SO’) to Prym, Entaco and Coats in accordance with Article 2 of Regulation (EC) No 2842/98 (2), which was received by Entaco on 16 March 2004 and by Coats and Prym on 17 March 2004. The deadline to reply to the SO was 13 May 2004. Coats and Prym were granted an extension of this deadline until 28 May 2004.

Entaco’s reply was received on 5 May 2004. Coats’ and Pryms’ replies were received on 28 May 2004.

Access to the file was provided by sending out a CD-Rom with the documents in the Commission’s file. It was received by the parties on 26 March 2004.

By letter of 13 April and 5 May 2004, Coats requested access to additional information in the Commission’s file, affirming that some further documents copied at Prym’s and VBT’s premises might be of relevance for Coats’ defence. Furthermore, Coats criticised the fact that some paragraphs in the SO had remained redacted even though they referred to relevant documents.

By letters of 3 May and 7 May 2004, I agreed that virtually the entirety of the documents copied at Prym’s premises, which in the meantime had been accepted by Prym as being non-confidential, should be transmitted to Coats. I also promised the re-instatement of nearly all the passages referred to in Coats’ request. Accordingly, the relevant Commission service granted access to this additional information in the ensuing days.

However, with respect to the other documents, which had been copied at VBT’s premises, I took the view that there was not a sufficient link with the present case to justify their disclosure and therefore did not accede to Coats’ request. Coats did not raise objections against this approach.

Upon request of the parties to be heard orally in this case, an oral hearing took place on 18 June 2004.

Subsequent to the oral hearing, each party was provided with a non-confidential version of the replies of the others. All parties were informed that the replies could be considered as containing new evidence pertaining to the allegations as set out in the SO. The parties were granted four weeks upon receipt to submit further comments.

On 28 July Coats submitted further documents in response to a number of issues that had been raised or clarified at the oral hearing. The same was done by Prym on 30 July 2004.

On 19 August 2004 Coats sent a memorandum to the Commission summarising their key objections against the Commission’s case.

The draft decision submitted to the Commission only contains objections about which the parties have had the opportunity to state their views.

In the light of the above, I consider that the right of the parties to be heard has been fully respected in this case.

Brussels, 19 October 2004.

Karen WILLIAMS


(1)  Regulation No 17 of the Council of 6 February 1962, First Regulation implementing Articles 85 and 86 of the EC Treaty (OJ 13, 21.2.1962, p. 204).

(2)  Regulation (EC) No 2842/98 of the Commission of 22 December 1998 on the hearing of parties in certain proceedings under Articles 85 and 86 of the EC Treaty (OJ L 354, 30.12.1998, p. 18).


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