Category Archives: Agreements

Another reason to avoid the CAT – Emerson in the Court of Appeal

The famous Victorian cricketer WG Grace is reputed once to have offered the following advice:

“When you win the toss – bat. If you are in doubt, think about it, then bat. If you have very big doubts, consult a colleague – then bat.”

The recent Emerson decision [2012] EWCA Civ 1559 is another illustration that bringing a follow on claim in the CAT rather than in the High Court is the law’s equivalent of choosing to bowl.

Emerson was yet another interlocutory skirmish arising from the CAT’s notoriously troublesome follow on jurisdiction under section 47A of the Competition Act 1998.  Continue reading

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BCL No.2: The Supreme Court addresses time limits in follow-on claims

The White Paper which first proposed follow-on damages claims promised a “swift” and “streamlined” procedure. The idea was that when a regulator had made an infringement finding, there would be a simple way for victims to claim damages without having to prove the infringement afresh.

In reality, however, many follow-on actions have been bogged down by procedural skirmishes. The Court of Appeal has ruled on the need for the facts alleged in a follow-on claim to be part of the infringement actually found. It has ruled on the extent to which findings of fact in an infringement decision are binding in the follow-on action.

And it has on three occasions turned its attention to the time limits for bringing follow-on claims in the Competition Appeal Tribunal. Continue reading

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Competition law and the National Health Service

On 16 August 2012 the Office of Fair Trading revealed that eight NHS trusts had been engaged in the exchange of commercially sensitive information. The information related to the price each would charge self-paying patients, or patients’ insurers, for treatment in a hospital operated by an NHS trust when that treatment was privately funded. The file was closed when the OFT received assurances that the information exchange had ceased and that the parties would provide their staff with training on competition law compliance.

In the press release the OFT said: “We urge all Trusts to take steps to ensure they are compliant with competition law when engaging in commercial activity.” This of course begs a question: when are NHS bodies engaged in commercial activity? This question becomes more pressing from April 2013, when Monitor, at present the independent regulator for NHS foundation trusts, gains power under sections 72 and 73 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to apply competition law in the health sector. Continue reading

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Special pleading? Toshiba Carrier and the industrial tubes cartel

The Court of Appeal’s judgment last Friday in KME Yorkshire Ltd & ors v Toshiba Carrier UK Ltd & ors [2012] EWCA Civ 1990 will gladden the hearts of Article 101 damages claimants.  It confirms that the Court will be generous in assessing the adequacy of a claimant’s pleaded case – at least where a Commission decision has already established the existence of a cartel.

By a Decision dated 16 December 2003, the Commission found that three manufacturers of industrial copper tubes had between 1988 and 2001 operated a price-fixing and market-sharing cartel under cover of a trade association. Continue reading

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Competition round-up: Summer 2012

As most of us are now returned from our summer holidays, I thought I’d take advantage of the ‘back to school’ feeling with a round-up of the most significant competition cases since Easter. This also provides a good excuse to highlight the best blogs from the Competition Bulletin’s first couple of months.

I’ll start with a case that should, but probably won’t, make the law reports: the decision of the Appeal Panel of the Rugby Football Union, which held in an appeal by London Welsh that the RFU rules on primacy of tenure are contrary to Articles 101 and 102 TFEU and therefore void. The case is notable not only for the finding itself, but also because it was heard and decided so quickly – arguments which would take days in the High Court (and probably weeks in the CAT) were heard over the course of a day, and the 38-page judgment completed the following day. James Segan blogged on the case here.

There has been much good news for claimants in follow-on damages claims. Continue reading

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Fairness between infringers: the need for consistency in punishments

Competition lawyers may want to brush up on their criminal law. The Court of Appeal’s recent judgment in Interclass Holdings v OFT [2012] EWCA Civ 1056 borrows criminal law principles to guide the calculation of penalties imposed.

The appeal was a further instalment in the litigation arising from the OFT’s largest ever investigation under the Competition Act 1998 concerning collusive tendering practices in the construction industry. A round of litigation before the Tribunal had resulted in substantial reductions in the fines imposed by the OFT on many of the appellant undertakings. This further appeal by Interclass concerned the application by the Tribunal of a 100 per cent uplift to the provisional fine payable by Interclass with the intention of adequately deterring both Interclass and other undertakings from committing infringements in the future.

The Court of Appeal accepted that the Tribunal had correctly followed a staged approach to the calculation of the penalty, beginning with starting figures based on the seriousness of the infringements and then proceeding to consider whether an uplift should be applied for deterrence.

However, the Court borrowed two important concepts from criminal law. Continue reading

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Competition law achieves fair play

The London Welsh decision provides a rare but telling example of competition law marching its way onto the field of professional sport.

London Welsh won rugby union’s Championship in the 2011-12 season.  This would, in ordinary circumstances, have entitled them to be promoted to the Premiership, which is club rugby’s highest division.  The RFU, however, operates “minimum standards criteria” for the Premiership, which require any club eligible for promotion from the Championship to have “primacy of tenure” over their home ground.  London Welsh did not have primacy of tenure and so their bid for promotion was refused by the RFU.

All, so far, the stuff of an unexceptionable sporting decision.  There was, however, a small complication: there were three clubs already in the Premiership which also did not have primacy of tenure (London Wasps, Saracens and London Irish).  A special three-club exemption operated for those clubs.  The exemption was not, however, open to London Welsh, or to any other club which might qualify for promotion from the Championship. Continue reading

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Supreme Court puts brake on “Euro defences”

The UK Supreme Court has given trade mark proprietors reason to celebrate, in a judgment which is likely to have important consequences for the success of “Euro defences” more broadly.

See: Oracle America Inc (formerly Sun Microsystems Inc) v M-Tech Data Limited [2012] UKSC 27.

From the point of view of trade mark law, the case’s main significance is that it emphasises the right of trade mark proprietors to control the initial entry onto the EEA market of any trademarked goods (see Article 5 of the Trade Mark Directive). M-Tech, which had imported and tried to sell Sun trademarked goods without Sun’s consent, argued in its defence that Sun’s attempts to enforce its trade mark rights were part of a broader scheme to partition the EEA market, and were therefore contrary to the free movement of goods provisions at Articles 34 to 36 TFEU. Continue reading

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