The wide understanding of the notion of “undertaking” affords the European Commission (“Commission”) broad discretion when identifying the entities liable for competition law infringements, enabling it to attribute liability to all companies that constitute a single economic unit, such that a parent company can be liable for the wrongdoings of its subsidiary. The Commission also relies on the principle of economic continuity to establish liability when corporate groups are reconstructed.
With the increase of private competition law enforcement, the question arises whether individuals may rely on these concepts when establishing liability in private lawsuits. The recent Sumal and Skanska cases confirm that EU Courts are in favour of extending the doctrine of “undertaking” to private damages claims. In his opinion of 15 April 2021 in Sumal, Advocate General (“AG”) Pitruzzella proposes that a national court can order a subsidiary to pay compensation for the harm caused by anticompetitive conduct of its parent company. In March, the CJEU decided, in Skanska, that the principle of economic continuity applies in the context of follow-on damages claims.
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