A district court recently confirmed the civil liability of the cartel participants and their group entities in the Gas Insulated Switchgear cartel. The court required some additional information by the parties before determining the actual damages to be awarded. Another district court rejected a request for provisional witness hearings in an air freight case. The claimants did not convince the court that witness hearings would add anything more to the information already set out in the European Commission decision.
Litigation vehicle Stichting Cartel Compensation (SCC) initiated a damages claim against airlines KLM and Martinair following the European Commission’s decision regarding a cartel in the air freight sector. SCC requested that the Amsterdam District Court hold a provisional witness hearing so that it could examine eight individuals, including KLM and Martinair senior staff members, on the cartel’s existence, scope and duration. The court held that, irrespective of the appeals pending against the European Commission’s decision before the EU courts, there was no need to hear witnesses because Article 16 of Regulation 1/2003 prevents it from ruling contrary to the European Commission’s decision setting out the cartel’s duration and scope. Only if there were reasonable doubt about the validity of the Commission decision would this differ, but no such arguments were presented to the court. Furthermore, because SCC had failed to substantiate its claim that the cartel existed beyond the duration and scope as set out in the Commission decision, there was no need for SCC to examine witnesses on this matter either.
The recent ruling by the Gelderland District Court also demonstrates courts’ willingness to resolve cartel damage cases. TenneT, the Dutch electricity grid operator, sought damages from Alstom following the European Commission’s decision in the Gas Insulated Switchgear cartel. The Arnhem-Leeuwarden Court of Appeal has already confirmed the liability of the cartelists in a parallel case. The Gelderland District Court did the same against another cartel member and requested more information on the passing-on defence so that the actual damages could be assessed.