Marché de la mort et abus de position dominante, la leçon du Conseil d’État

Source : FlickR - le Graveyard du Undertaker par markhodginsQui n’a jamais entendu parler d’abus de position dominante ? Sans être un expert en droit de la concurrence, n’importe qui subodore ce que recouvre la notion. Il s’agit en substance d’une pratique anticoncurrentielle qui a pour objet de fausser ou de restreindre le libre jeu de la concurrence sur un marché donné. Cette pratique est prohibée par l‘article L. 420-1 et suivants du code de commerce.

Pour un petit cours de droit en accéléré, le lecteur pourra se tourner vers la DGCCRF.

Le nom de grandes entreprises renommées a été, à un moment ou à un autre, attaché à cette pratique, tels que Microsoft et Google, Intel, Vivendi et Orange, même EDF n’étant pas irréprochable de ce point de vue.

L’histoire qui nous intéresse ce jour ne concerne pas un marché comme les autres, puisqu’il s’agit du marché de la mort, ou pour être plus précis, celui des pompes funèbres.

Elle n’implique pas un magnat du CAC 40, mais oppose un centre hospitalier à une entreprise (une société anonyme ou « SA ») de pompes funèbres.

Les faits sont relativement simples. En 1992, la Ville de Moulins a concédé à la SA Pompes funèbres du sud-est la construction et l’exploitation d’une chambre funéraire avant que le centre hospitalier de Moulins-Yzeure ne confie à cette même société l’accueil, dans cette chambre funéraire, du corps des personnes décédées au centre hospitalier et sur la voie publique.

L’intérêt de cet arrêt réside dans la position adoptée en appel sur le litige en cause.

En effet, la Cour administrative d’appel de Lyon (1) avait estimé que la convention conclue entre le centre hospitalier de Moulins-Yzeure et la SA Pompes funèbres du sud-est créait au profit de cette dernière « une position dominante au sens des dispositions de l’article 8 de l’ordonnance de 1986 [devenu article L. 420-2 du code de commerce] » et qu’ainsi, ladite convention « était nulle et n’avait pu faire naître d’obligations entre les parties » en vertu de l’article 9 de l’ordonnance, devenu l’article L. 420-3 du code de commerce.

Sans surprise, le Conseil d’État (2) sanctionne pour erreur de droit un tel raisonnement : « en statuant ainsi, sans rechercher si la convention litigieuse plaçait la société en situation d’abuser automatiquement de la position dominante qu’elle avait identifiée, la Cour a entaché son arrêt d’une erreur de droit. »

Cette décision ne doit pas pour autant masquer une triste réalité : les abus – passés, espérons-le – d’une partie de la profession funéraire,  laquelle a d’ailleurs vu un renforcement des contrôles auxquelles elle était déjà soumise, ce qui peut aisément se comprendre eu égard à la fragilité des personnes endeuillées. Une circulaire du 14 mai 2007 du ministère de l’Intérieur a en effet invité les Préfets à plus de célérité et de sévérité dans le contrôle des conditions d’exercice de la profession funéraire.

Les exemples de condamnation ne manquent pas en cette matière. La société des Pompes funèbres d’Ile de France, nouvellement dénommée GES, s’est vue infliger une amende de 5 millions de francs. Les Pompes funèbres du Val de Marne à 76.224 euros. La société OGF à Saint-Germain en Laye à 484.000 euros. Et encore tant d’autres.

Il faut dire que les associations et l’Institut national de la consommation se montrent vigilants et que la DGCCRF s’est résolue à mener une enquête au premier trimestre 2007 sur 45 départements sur la pratique en vigueur. Les résultats sont disponibles ici.

(1) CAA Lyon, 9 mars 2006, n°00LY00349.
(2) CE, 17 octobre 2008, n° 293220.

Omar YAHIA

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