On 6 November 2022, the Portuguese Competition, Regulation and Supervision Court of Santarém rendered a key judgment in relation to damages proceedings against participants in the European Trucks Cartel. The Court addressed key points, such as the standard of proof, limitation periods, and net price effects in a comprehensive EU case law state of play-based interpretation of national law. Granting the 15.4% overcharge identified in the claimant’s expert report and rejecting the defendant’s “no damage” argumentation, this judgment will have a positive impact beyond the Trucks Cartel case.
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.
Trucks cartel: District Court of Amsterdam confirms the possibility for entities to bundle multiple damage claims in one action and applies uniformly Dutch law to those claims
On 27 July 2022, the District Court of Amsterdam delivered an important judgment in which it confirmed previous case law of Dutch courts on the validity of the ‘assignment model’, by which entities, such as CDC, effectively bundle multiple damage claims in one single action. The judgment is in line with EU law, in particular the principle of effectiveness. By choosing Dutch law as the law applicable to all damage claims, the Court has provided an effective solution for victims of competition law infringements.
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.
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.
Interest on cartel damages
Suppose that in 2002, a cartel caused EUR 1,000 in damages to a victim. Is the victim 20 years later entitled to only EUR 1,000? Of course not. The amount must be adjusted for interest. EU law is clear on this point, along with the requirement that interest must accrue as of the time the damage occurred. Other modalities, however, are left to national laws. When working out interest in any concrete case, several common issues should be considered. The following attempts to foster systematic treatment of this interesting (sic!) topic.
General Court entirely dismisses Scania’s appeal and confirms Scania’s participation in the Truck Cartel
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.
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.
Sumal v Mercedes Benz: CJEU confirms civil liability of a subsidiary for the participation of its parent company in a competition law infringement
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.