The estimated damage cannot be less than 5% of the purchase price paid for reasons of effectiveness under EU law.” This was recently stated by the German Federal Court of Justice about claims for damages due to the Dieselgate scandal. However, the Court’s reasoning in favour of this legal lower limit for damages might equally, if not even more so, be applied to cartel damages claims – an analysis.
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.
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.
On 13 June 2022, the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) held that the claims assignment model (Sammelklage-Inkasso) is admissible for Swiss purchasers in the so-called Diesel scandal (see the Bundesgerichtshof’s press release of the same day). The decision is a further step after the landmark AirDeal judgment last year, in which the Bundesgerichtshof fundamentally acknowledged the collective opt-in assignment model, i.e. the transfer of claims for damages of numerous victims of the same infringement to a specialised third party for the purpose of bundling and joint enforcement of all claims. This approach from a procedural economy perspective has become increasingly important all over Europe in recent years, especially in competition law cases. In its Diesel emission case, the Bundesgerichtshof now confirms that the model is also open to purchasers from Switzerland.
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.
Corporate victims of anticompetitive practices by their suppliers regularly consider their possibilities to exercise their rights in the best interest of their company. On 13 July 2021, the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) held that the ‘class action collection’ (Sammelklage-Inkasso) is permissible. Correcting a contrary trend followed by lower courts, the landmark AirDeal judgment of Germany’s supreme court fundamentally confirms the legality of the opt-in ‘assignment model’, i.e. the contractual transfer of claims for damages of numerous victims of the same infringement to a specialised third party for the purpose of bundling, analysis, and joint enforcement of these claims. This approach from a procedural economy perspective has become increasingly important all over Europe in recent years, especially for private antitrust cases due to a lack of effective collective redress mechanisms. In Germany, it has also been approved by a current reform of statutory law.
Cartel members sued for damages regularly invoke as a defence that the plaintiff passed on the overcharge resulting from their unlawful behaviour to its own customers (the ‘indirect purchasers’) and was hence not entitled to claim damages for it. In the well-known ORWI judgment of 28 June 2011 (KZR 75/10), the Federal Court of Justice […]
Are there no public benefits from a hardcore cartel? The German Rails Cartel, at least, continues to contribute to the general development of private claims for damages resulting from an infringement of the EU cartel prohibition (Article 101 TFEU) and its national equivalent. From this perspective, it supports consumers, by promoting legal certainty for an […]
Virtually each dispute over claims for damages resulting from an infringement of competition law includes the question of how to deal with the fact that a direct purchaser from an infringer might have passed on all or part of the illegal overcharge to its own customers and thus, directly or indirectly, even down to the […]