The European Commission has been keen to play down the significance of Wednesday’s court ruling in the Schneider/Legrand case. In a precedent-setting decision, the European Court of First Instance ordered Brussels to pay damages to Schneider for wrongly blocking a merger with its French rival six years ago.
The antitrust watchdog stressed that it was held liable only for a fraction of the €1.66bn in damages claimed by Schneider. It also pointed out that the number of potential claimants was small – a view shared by most competition lawyers and antitrust experts. Indeed, at first glance it would appear the ruling only applies to the four companies that saw their mergers blocked by Brussels, but later managed to get the ruling overturned in court.
For the sake of European taxpayers, one can only hope that is true. But there are two other potential claimants that could inflict real financial pain on the EU regulator.