On 6 October 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in the case of Sumal S.L. v Mercedes Benz Trucks Espana S.L., one of the cases it is handling in response to the truck cartel. In 2016, the European Commission imposed a fine on the defendant’s German parent company, Daimler AG, for infringement of competition law in the truck cartel. However, the Spanish company Sumal had not initiated cartel damages proceedings against Daimler AG but against its Spanish subsidiary. The claims were denied at first instance because this Spanish company was not the addressee of the Commission decision. The Barcelona Court of Appeal however had its doubts about this opinion and referred the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The Court of Justice of the European Union arrived at a different decision. It held that a subsidiary could also be held liable if it formed an “economic unit” with the addressee parent company. The claimant therefore has to prove “the economic, organisational and legal links that unite the two legal entities” and “the existence of a specific link between the economic activity of that subsidiary and the subject matter of the infringement for which the parent company was held to be responsible.”