Truck Cartel: progress in sight?

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It looks as though there is finally the prospect of some significant progress, as the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has finally been able to list cases for a lengthy hearing on 19-26 April 2021, it is reported.

UK Trucks Claim Limited (UKTC) and, separately, Road Haulage Association Limited (RHA) have made applications to the CAT for “collective proceedings” orders (CPOs) against various truck manufacturers. If the CAT grants one or both applications, then this would create a gateway for those few who seek compensation, to progress their claims further. However, there will be further contested hearings, undoubtedly, and the proceedings may still be prolonged.

The applications made by UKTC is seeking an “opt-out” order (though it has also applied for an ‘”opt-in” order). If an “opt-out” order is granted it means anyone in the class of claimants re part of the claim for damages. If such an order were to be granted then the CAT would quantify the total compensation the truck manufacturers should pay out. Then those with individual claims would seek to recoup their specific share. The idea is that there is no risk to claimants as, if the case succeeds then the manufacturers in the cartel should be ordered to pay legal costs, and if the case fails, there is insurance underwriting to meet such costs.

The RHA scheme involves those seeking compensation to ‘opt in’ to that claim to seek to recoup their net losses. (The amount per vehicle is variously estimated from as low as, say, £5K to as high as £20K each. All that remains to be seen, and of course would depend on a successful application.)

The Background

In July 2016, the European Commission fined MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF €2.93b.  Subsequently, the European Commission similarly also fined Scania €880m. The manufacturers allegedly fixed truck prices and liaised with each other on the bringing in of / delaying of new emission technology at the same time.

The claim is that those who purchased, leased, or rented lorries did so at a greater cost than would otherwise have been the case.  Therefore, recompense is due.

The relevant vehicles in question are lorries from 6 tonnes upwards.  The offending period is 1997 to 2011 – 14 years – so, claimants must bring their claims within that window in order to seek any compensation. As stated, the CAT must first grant a collective proceedings order (CPO) before any further steps can be taken by claimants.

Timetable

Whilst the next hearing is due to take place in between 19 and 26 April 2021 on may have to await the decision in the case for some time. Then, further contested hearings will follow. Any party may decide to appeal.  Given the claims for compensation are very large it is foreseeable that parties would seek to appeal.

The main hearing for these applications had previously been listed for December 2019, but was postponed as a decision in a relevant but separate Supreme Court case (Merricks v Mastercard) was awaited.  That decision is resolved.

What is the Competition Appeal Tribunal?

It is a ‘specialist judicial body with cross-disciplinary expertise in law, economics, business and accountancy which hears and decides cases involving competition or economic regulatory issues.


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