This case, being already the third since the new CAT Rules came into force on the 1 October 2015, is evidence that the new fast track procedure has been successful in encouraging claims against anti-competitive behaviour and providing smaller businesses with cheaper and quicker opportunities for access to justice.
On 12 April 2016, the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal ("CAT") listed a third case under its "fast-track" competition litigation procedure. As we previously reported, the procedure was designed to provide primarily small and medium sized enterprises with fast and effective relief from competition law infringements, and was introduced by Section 81 and Schedule 8 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (click here for the previous update).
The claim, filed on 4 April 2016, concerns the provision of online anti-money laundering ("AML") training for law firms, as well as additional online training which helps property lawyers to avoid mortgage fraud and other financial crime. These training services are offered by both the Claimant (Socrates Training Limited) and the Defendant (The Law Society of England and Wales).
The Defendant is the UK's independent professional body for solicitors and provides a variety of accreditation schemes which are recognised throughout England and Wales as a mark of expertise in specific areas of law. According to the details of the claim, the Defendant now requires that firms wishing to maintain their Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) accreditation, must now purchase both types of above mentioned training directly from the Defendant.
The Claimant, a smaller online training provider, has now brought a claim for damages under section 47A of the Competition Act 1998 on the basis that the Law Society's requirement is anti-competitive and forecloses the Claimant from the market. Specifically, according to the Notice of Claim, "the Claimant alleges that the Defendant is dominant in the market for the provision of quality certification/accreditation services to conveyancing firms, and that the Defendant's insistence that firms must buy their AML, mortgage fraud or other financial crime training from itself rather than from the Claimant or any other provider, is an abuse of its dominant position, restricting competition in the downstream market for the provision of AML and financial crime training and causing loss to the Claimant."
Among other remedies, the Claimant is seeking damages in addition to an injunction restraining the Defendant from continuing to abuse its dominant position.
Judgment is expected in the case within six months unless the parties elect to settle the matter beforehand.