According to a report in the Financial Times last weekend, the European Commission is on the verge of commencing a formal investigation into potentially anti-competitive restrictions in pay-TV licensing arrangements. Such an investigation could have significant ramifications for any owners of television rights in sports fixtures (or other content) who seek to maximise their revenues by licensing on an exclusive territorial basis.
The last time similar issues came before the Court of Justice, a rights owner rather than the Commission was on the offensive. In Joined Cases C-403/08 and C-429/08, Football Association Premier League Ltd v QC Leisure, Murphy v Media Protection Services Ltd  1 CMLR 29, FAPL was attempting to use criminal and civil law provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to enforce its model of exclusive territorial licensing of satellite TV rights for the Premier League. Mrs Murphy, a publican who had used an illicitly obtained satellite decoder card to show Greek satellite broadcasts of Premier League matches in her Portsmouth pub, famously persuaded the Court of Justice that national legislation prohibiting the import, sale and use of satellite decoder cards from elsewhere in the EU contravenes the free movement rules in the EU Treaties, and that restrictions such as those in the licence agreements between FAPL and its satellite broadcasters, obliging the licensee not to provide decoding devices outside its territory, contravene Article 101 TFEU. Her appeal against conviction (for the offence of fraudulently receiving a programme included in a broadcasting service) was successful. Yet FAPL snatched victory from the jaws of this defeat, establishing in the QC Leisure litigation that activities such as Mrs Murphy’s are actionable as copyright infringement. Continue reading
Never the most celebrated actor on the stage of English litigation, the French Blocking Statute nonetheless has its fans, particularly among competition lawyers. The recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Secretary of State for Health v Servier Laboratories  EWCA Civ 1234, however, may prove the Statute’s final curtain call in this jurisdiction.
Law No. 68-678 of the French Republic, to give the Statute its proper name, was originally enacted in response to a United States antitrust investigation into French shipping companies. Continue reading
Further to my post this morning, the CAT’s website has just been updated with a new judgment on confidentiality, Ryanair Holdings plc v Competition Commission  CAT 25. The Tribunal has ruled, in the context of a challenge to the CC’s decision requiring Ryanair to divest itself of the large part of its minority stake in Aer Lingus, that not even Ryanair’s lawyers are entitled to see a fully unredacted copy of the decision. It would appear from the judgment that the case is likely to give rise to further arguments about procedural fairness and confidentiality: certainly one to watch.
Dealing with confidential information in competition cases can be tricky. The CAT’s recent judgment in BMI Healthcare and others v Competition Commission  CAT 241 provides some help.
The core problem of confidentiality in the context of competition law is that many of the arguments deployed by litigants and regulators rely upon information which is highly commercially sensitive. Revealing one party’s business secrets to another – letting the cat out of the bag2 – not only risks aggravation to the cat’s owner but has the potential for serious economic harm. Continue reading
It is time for what has become the Competition Bulletin’s regular half-yearly update of EU and UK competition law developments. (For our previous round-ups see here).
Thinking big Continue reading
Filed under Abuse, Agreements, Conflicts, Damages, Free movement, IP, Mergers, Penalties, Pharmaceuticals, Policy, Procedure, Procurement, Round-Up, State aid, Telecoms
The blog post below first appeared on the sports law blog recently launched by colleagues at Blackstone Chambers.
We intend in future to post articles with both a competition and a sports angle on both blogs. Readers interested more generally in sports law may wish to subscribe to the Sports Law Bulletin: http://sportslawbulletin.org/
Retirement comes too soon for many professional sports players, but for Guillermo “Willy” Cañas, an Argentinean tennis player once ranked world number 8, there was yet more to be lost upon retirement than just the tournament prizes and sponsorship deals. Continue reading
The UK government on Wednesday published a consultation on streamlining regulatory and competition appeals. The press spin was that the proposals are all about preventing “armies of lawyers” from blocking consumer-friendly measures. In reality, although it is true that the proposals are designed in part to put a lid on litigation, the consultation contains a series of thoughtful suggestions – many of which are likely to attract widespread support.
Take, for example, the suggestion that there should be greater consistency in the available appeal routes. Someone at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has had fun mapping out the existing appeal routes for different decisions in the regulated sectors. The resulting table speaks for itself (figure 3.5 of the consultation):
The trio of documents published by the Commission last week mark an important moment in private competition enforcement in the EU. After years of debate and consultation, it is now clear that, whilst the Commission is determined to take some important steps to assist claimants in private actions, it is not prepared to bring about the sorts of fundamental changes which would be needed to realise the full potential of private enforcement.
The three documents each deserve close scrutiny. This blog is intended only to provide a broad overview. Continue reading
Late in 2011, the Office of Fair Trading was forced to concede before the Competition Appeal Tribunal that it could no longer defend the theory of harm contained in its Decision on alleged pricing agreements between tobacco manufacturers and retailers.
However, the OFT refused to simply give up, and instead tried to persuade the CAT to allow it to run a new case. One of the barristers before the CAT (step forward Dinah Rose QC) described the OFT’s new case as “Frankenstein”, a corpse stitched together from components of the abandoned Decision. She invited the CAT to bury the corpse. It duly did so: the OFT was not allowed to run a new case, and the Appellants succeeded in their appeals.
The OFT’s original Decision, however, was not quite dead. Continue reading
In his recent blog “Down the rabbit hole,” Tom Richards described the “quasi judicial review within an appeal” contained in s.193(7) Communications Act 2003 as something of a Wonderland.
Last Wednesday it was the turn of the Court of Appeal to enter Wonderland. However, the judgment of Moses LJ in Everything Everywhere Ltd v Competition Commission and ors  EWCA Civ 154 gives important general guidance on the evidence needed for an appeal “on the merits”. It is likely to be of assistance to appellants in a variety of contexts, whether or not they have ventured into this particular statutory Wonderland. Continue reading
Stand alone, follow on and hybrid damages claims arising out of multijurisdictional cartels are generating some of the most novel and interesting current problems in conflicts of laws, both in relation to issues of jurisdiction and applicable law. On the jurisdictional side conventional wisdom has it that there are three main routes by which Claimants can seize English jurisdiction.
First, you can find a so-called “Anchor Defendant” that is a cartelist (and it must be an addressee cartelist if in the CAT so long as Mersen is good law) domiciled here, against which you can proceed as of right under Article 2 of the Brussels Regulation. Then you can bring in other cartelists under Article 6 (i.e. a defendant against whom the claim is closely connected to that against the anchor defendant such that determining them together avoids the risk of irreconcilable judgments). Where the Anchor Defendant is an addressee of the decision this tactic is unproblematic. Continue reading
The big news from last week’s UK announcement on reforming private competition enforcement is that the government plans to introduce opt-out class actions for competition claims.
The proposals incorporate various “safeguards” designed to ensure that the perceived excesses of US class actions do not become a problem here. Some of the safeguards are really no more than statements of the obvious – no-one can be surprised that we will not have US-style triple damages, or that law firms won’t be able to bring a claim without even having a claimant. On the other hand, some safeguards – such as the prohibition on contingency fees – will surely serve to limit the usefulness of UK class actions.
Financing aside, the big unanswered question is how attractive claimants will find such class actions (or “collective actions”, as the government prefers to call them, emphasising the differences with the US). Continue reading
As today is the first day of the new court term, I thought it would be a good moment for a round-up of last term’s competition cases – and, of course, the customary plug of our own blogs.
If there was a theme to the Michaelmas term, it was the highs and lows of follow-on claims. Few pieces of legislation can have attracted so much judicial attention in so short a time as s.47A of the Competition Act 1998. It has now gone as far as the Supreme Court, which confirmed in BCL Old Company Ltd v BASF plc  UKSC 45 that the rules governing limitation periods for bringing follow on claims in the CAT are not so unpredictable as to breach European principles of legal certainty (a topic which I blogged on here). Continue reading
What kinds of “follow-on” claims may be brought in the CAT? ‘[A]ny claim for damages, or any other claim for a sum of money which a person who has suffered loss or damage as a result of the infringement of a relevant prohibition may make in civil proceedings brought in any part of the United Kingdom’, according to section 47A(1) of the Competition Act. A ‘relevant prohibition’ for this purpose is of course defined as any of the Chapter I and II prohibitions or the prohibitions in Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty.
The most obvious section 47A claim is a claim in tort for breach of statutory duty. But what other causes of action fall within the scope of the section?
That question has been considered judicially for the first time in W. H. Newson Holding Ltd & ors. v IMI plc & ors.  EWHC 3680 (Ch), a case arising out of the copper plumbing tubes cartel. Continue reading
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  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
‘“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here”.’
Where an appeal to the Tribunal under section 192 of the Communications Act 2003 gives rise to specified ‘price control matters’, the CAT must hive them off for determination by the Competition Commission: see section 193(1) and SI 2004/2068. The CAT is then bound by section 193(6) to follow the Commission’s determination, except ‘to the extent that the Tribunal decides, applying the principles applicable on an application for judicial review, that the determination of the Competition Commission is a determination that would fall to be set aside on such an application’: section 193(7).
This “quasi-judicial review within an appeal” jurisdiction under section 193(7) is tribute in itself to the complexity of the legal imagination. In British Telecommunications Plc v Office of Communications  CAT 30 the Tribunal takes us deeper still into wonderland with this question: can the Competition Commission, when it participates in a section 193(7) review before the Tribunal, recover its costs of so doing? Continue reading
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
The Court of Appeal’s judgment last Friday in KME Yorkshire Ltd & ors v Toshiba Carrier UK Ltd & ors  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
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