Following a request for a preliminary ruling from Germany, the CJEU has to assess the availability of the ‘assignment model’ to cartel victims. Private enforcement of competition law in the EU is essentially driven by actions bundling claims for damages assigned by a multitude of victims to a specialised company for joint assessment and enforcement. The question is whether limitations to the assignment model under national law can survive an assessment under EU law.
Shortly after the publication of the Tráficos Manuel Ferrer judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in response to a request for a preliminary ruling (16 February 2023), the judge from the Valencia court who had referred the questions to the CJEU delivered his judgment in the same case (10 March 2023). This blog post analyses the key points of the Valencia court judgment concerning economic expert reports.
On 10 November 2022, the EU Court of Justice rendered another key judgment in relation to the series of damages proceedings brought in Spain against participants in the European Trucks Cartel. This judgment on the interpretation of Art. 5(1) of the Damages Directive clarifies the wide scope of evidence to which claimants can request access to substantiate potential damages claims. The judgment further strengthens the effectiveness of private enforcement of EU competition rules and should have a positive impact on the whole wave of compensation claims against truck manufacturers in Europe.
On 1 August 2022, the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled in Case C-588/20 Daimler (Ententes – Camions à ordures ménageres) that specialised trucks are covered by the cartel found in the European Commission’s 2016 decision in Case AT.39824 Trucks. The judgment concerns the fundamental and practically relevant question of how to identify the products directly affected by a cartel infringement according to the decision of a competition authority, which in this respect is binding for the civil courts in a follow-on action for damages. As a result, the right of injured parties to access the Statement of Objections sent by that authority to the cartelists prior to the adoption of the decision will gain in importance, especially if this decision has finally been adopted after a settlement.
In its landmark judgment of 22 June 2022 in Case C-267/20 – Volvo and DAF Trucks, the CJEU confirmed that the five-year limitation period under the EU Damages Directive on antitrust damages applies to all cartel damages claims which at the time of the transposition of the Directive into national law were not yet time barred. Equally, the Court stresses that neither the burden nor the standard of proof for the quantification of competition damages must be too high, and that national courts can estimate the amount of cartel damages where the action was brought after 26 December 2014. The judgment provides much awaited legal certainty for many cases in which the temporal application of the new limitation period and the quantification of damages under the Directive is at the heart of the debate.
On April 7, 2022, AG Szpunar delivered its opinion in the context of a request for a preliminary ruling made by the Commercial Court 7 of Barcelona to the CJEU concerning, i.a, the interpretation of Article 5(1) of Directive 2014/104/EU on the disclosure inter partes of evidence.
On 2 February 2022, the General Court of the European Union rendered its judgment in the Case T-799/17, Scania and Others v Commission. The Court dismissed in its entirety the appeal brought by Scania AB, Scania CV AB, and Scania Deutschland GmbH, against the decision of the European Commission of 27 September 2017 in Case AT.39824 – Trucks imposing a fine of EUR 880 million on Scania for its participation in the European Trucks Cartel. The General Court confirmed Scania’s involvement in the single and continuous infringement and rejected all arguments presented by Scania.
In his opinion of 28 October 2021, Advocate General Rantos confirmed that the nature of the rules implementing the EU Damages Directive is determined by EU law and not by national law. The Advocate General states that the provisions on limitations and presumption of cartel-related harm are substantive. In contrast, the possibility for national judges to estimate the amount of harm is a procedural provision. Moreover, AG Rantos considers that pre-Directive knowledge-based limitation periods applied to cartel damage claims could reasonably begin with the publication of a fining decision’s multilingual summary.
On 6 October 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union rendered its judgment in Case C-882/19, Sumal SL v Mercedes Benz Trucks España SL. Following the Opinion of Advocate General Pitruzzella, the CJEU has confirmed that, under certain conditions, a subsidiary which is not the addressee of the administrative decision can be held liable for the damages caused by the infringement for which the parent company has been fined.
On 15 April 2021 the CJEU’s Advocate General (AG) Pitruzzella handed down his opinion in the preliminary ruling procedure relating to the Trucks cartel litigation in Spain. The Barcelona Provincial Court (‘Barcelona Court’) requested the CJEU to interpret EU law on the question of whether a subsidiary company is liable for damages where the Commission has only fined the parent company for anticompetitive behavior. The AG in Case C-882/19 takes the view that, subject to conditions, a subsidiary without being addressee of the cartel decision can be held liable for the damages caused by the infringement. The Opinion, when confirmed by the CJEU, has as well implications on the question of where victims of Europe-wide cartel behavour might bring claims for damages.