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Deutsche Telekom wins legal battle for interest on EU fine reimbursement

Deutsche Telekom on Tuesday won a legal fight to get EU antitrust regulators to pay interest on the portion of a fine reimbursed after an appeal, in what could be good news for a similar 593-million-euro ($638 million) claim by Intel.

A score of companies have in recent years sued competition enforcers for default interest on fines in annulled antitrust cases, with the claims totalling about 800 million euros. Intel is the highest profile case.

The Commission imposed a 31 million euro fine on Deutsche Telekom in 2014 for charging unfair wholesale prices in Slovakia. A lower tribunal cut the penalty to 19 million euros and ordered the Commission to pay some 1.8 million euros in interest.

The EU competition enforcer subsequently repaid the difference to Deutsche Telekom, but not the interest for the period between the payment and the reimbursement.

The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) sided with the German telecoms operator.

“The (European) Commission must pay interest on fines it has unduly imposed in competition matters and which it has provisionally collected,” judges said.

“That interest is intended to compensate, at a standard rate, the undertaking concerned for the loss of enjoyment of the amount in question,” they said.

The Commission said it took note of the ruling.

“The Commission will carefully study the judgment and assess its implications,” a spokesperson said.

The CJEU said the lower tribunal was right to hold that the applicable interest rate which the Commission is required to pay to Deutsche Telekom is the European Central Bank refinancing rate increased by 3.5 percentage points.

Intel’s claim for 593 million euros in interest is on a reimbursed fine of 1.06 billion euros from a case overturned in 2022. A number of airlines fined for taking part in an air cargo cartel are also seeking interest for their annulled fines. Reuters

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