June 18, 2015 - Assignment

The Absolut Company wins Supreme Court dispute against Systembolaget

On 17 June 2015, the Swedish Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the case between The Absolut Company AB (formerly V&S Vin & Sprit AB) and Systembolaget AB. The case concerned the challenge of an arbitral award issued in 2012, in which The Absolut Company was awarded damages as a result of Systembolaget's abuse of its monopoly position in the Swedish purchasing market for alcoholic beverages.

The Supreme Court's judgment concludes a dispute that has been going on between the parties since 2006. The dispute has, among others, included two arbitrations and two challenge proceedings. The Absolut Company was successful in the first arbitration, but since Systembolaget succeeded in having the arbitral award set aside, The Absolut Company called for a second arbitration. The Absolut Company was successful once again, however Systembolaget challenged also this award. After the Svea Court of Appeal dismissed Systembolaget's appeal, the Supreme Court has now confirmed the judgment of the Svea Court of Appeal.

The judgment addresses an important issue of principle. It is one of only very few European judgments dealing with the relationship between the principles of arbitration and EU competition law, as well as the scope of the so-called Eco Swiss doctrine. According to this doctrine, the EU competition rules are part of public policy, which, inter alia, means that they may serve as the basis to set aside an arbitral award under certain circumstances.

The Supreme Court concluded, among other things, that the arbitral tribunal's competition law assessment was clearly not contrary to the mandatory EU competition rules. Furthermore, the award could not be set aside on the basis of any other ground invoked by Systembolaget. Consequently, the Supreme Court's judgment means that the arbitral award between the parties stands.

The Absolut Company was represented by Mannheimer Swartling throughout the proceedings. Mannheimer Swartling's team consisted of Mattias Göransson, Tommy Pettersson, Azadeh Razani, Mårten Andersson and Shirin Saif. Former partner Johan Coyet also represented The Absolut Company. Over the years, also the following lawyers have advised in the matter (presented in chronological order): Bengt Sjövall, Anna Schildknecht, Kristoffer Löf, Kristoffer Stråth, Tom Ehrström and Olle Flygt.