On 5 January 2023, the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) published an important judgment in relation to follow-on damage actions relating to the so-called German drugstore products cartel (Case KZR 42/20). In its ruling, Germany’s highest civil court also confirmed a factual presumption of harm in the case of anticompetitive information exchanges. This is an important clarification as the BGH had thus far only acknowledged such factual presumption in cases of price-fixing and market-sharing practices. In addition, the BGH clarified that cartel participants are jointly and severally liable for damages caused in relation to products they do not manufacture themselves if they were aware that the anticompetitive practices extended to the other products.
Trucks cartel: New CJEU landmark judgement empowers victims of antitrust infringements with the right to request ex novo documents, created by the defendants (C-163/21, PACCAR e.a.)
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.
When is a truck a truck? Defining the relevant products for cartel damages claims
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.
Trucks Cartel: the Supreme Court of Norway confirms jurisdiction of the Norwegian courts for follow-on damage action based on the principles of joint and several liability and the civil liability of the ‘undertaking’
In an interesting decision the Supreme Court of Norway confirms jurisdiction of the Norwegian courts for a follow-on damage action based on the principles of joint and several liability and the civil liability of the ‘undertaking’.
CJEU clarifies the temporal application of the new EU Damages Directive’s five-year limitation in cartel cases
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.
Trucks cartel: AG Szpunar clarifies the application of Article 5 of the EU Damages Directive to documents to be created ex novo
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.
Contribution to the CNMC’s public consultation on quantification of damages
The Spanish Competition Authority (CNMC) plans to support judges by developing guidelines on quantifying damages caused by competition law infringements. The CNMC held a public consultation on the draft version of these guidelines. The contributions were published on the CNMC’s website, including ours. While the issues we picked up were partially addressed by the draft guidelines, we believe they merit further elaboration.
AG Rantos delivers a halfway opinion on the temporal application of the EU Antitrust Damages Directive (C-267/20, AB Volvo, DAF TRUCKS NV / RM)
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.
Antitrust Damages in the Ad-Tech Sector
On 22 June 2021, the European Commission confirmed the opening of a formal antitrust investigation into whether Google previously abused or is currently abusing its dominant position in the online intermediation of programmatic display advertising business. Prior to the Commission’s announcement, the French Competition Authority (FCA) had already handed down a decision on 7 July 2021, including a EUR 220 million fine, finding that Google breached Article 102 TFEU and the French Competition Act in the same advertisement sector.
Revival of the ‘claims assignment class action’ in German private antitrust enforcement (and beyond)
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.