Casino and Intermarché on Thursday won the backing of Europe's top court in their fight against EU antitrust regulators and their attempt to investigate the French supermarket groups' buying alliance.
The case underscores the increasing willingness by some companies to challenge the EU competition watchdog on what they perceive as regulatory over-reach and excessive demands for information.
The European Commission had in 2017 ordered the companies to submit to an inspection on suspicions of anti-competitive practices. It subsequently launched an investigation into their 2014 purchasing alliance which was dissolved in 2018.
Casino and Intermarché protested against the actions and took their case to Europe's top courts.
The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) annulled the EU antitrust watchdog's decision.
Judges said the information obtained by the Commission to justify its demands to the companies "are not substantiated by sufficiently serious indicia".
The CJEU also criticised the competition agency for not recording interviews with the companies' suppliers.
'That obligation applies irrespective of whether the interview in question was conducted before the formal opening of an investigation, in order to collect indicia of an infringement, or afterwards, for the purpose of collecting evidence of an infringement,' the court said.
In February, Casino pledged to spend more on promotions this quarter to help cash-strapped shoppers after sales at its Géant hypermarkets in France fell sharply in the fourth quarter of 2022 amid competitive pressure.