White & Case advises Glaxo as ECJ rejects Greek referral

White & Case Brussels-based partner Ian Forrester QC is advising pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in a case which featured a unique decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last week.

Last Tuesday (31 May), the ECJ decided that the Greek Competition Commission had no jurisdiction to refer questions to it, as the competition authority does not have the necessary characteristics of a court.

Glaxo is embroiled in litigation in Greece which was on hold until last week’s decision. Wholesalers and Greek pharmaceutical associations complained to the competition authority after Glaxo stopped supplying them with its products. The company said the wholesalers were exporting its drugs overseas, resulting in a shortage on the Greek market.

The competition commission referred the case to the ECJ to ask whether a pharmaceutical company is entitled to restrict the supply of its products in order to reduce parallel trade. The ECJ decided that the commission’s lack of independence meant it did not count as a “court or tribunal”, and that therefore it was unable to refer questions to Europe.

The case will now return to Greece for a hearing later this year.