The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has handed down its judgment on the issues raised by the applications of Albion and Dwr Cymru, both dated 24 November 2008, for final relief in the cases of Albion Water Limited v Water Services Regulation Authority (Interim Relief) and Albion Water Limited & Albion Water Group Limited v Water Services Regulation Authority (Dwr Cymru/Shotton Paper). The initial cases were lodged in 2004, when Albion appealed against a decision of the Water Services Regulation Authority finding that Dwr Cymru had not infringed the Chapter II prohibition of the Competition Act 1998. On appeal the CAT held otherwise and, having set aside the decision, unanimously decided that there had been a margin squeeze and that the price in question was excessive and unfair in itself.
The issues raised concerned the order the CAT should make to remedy the unfair pricing and margin squeeze abuses as well as the assessment of costs and the amount of any interim payment in respect of costs. As regards the unfair pricing abuse, the CAT ordered that Dwr Cymru bring the infringement it had identified to an end and refrain from any conduct having the same or equivalent effect. The CAT could not however modify the price in question as it had made no finding (expressly or by necessary implication) as to whether that price was an abuse of a dominant position. In relation to the margin squeeze abuse, the CAT ruled that setting a minimum retail margin was not an appropriate direction to bring the infringement to an end, due to the specific circumstances of the case. Finally, the CAT ordered that Albion’s reasonably incurred legal costs from 8 January 2007 to 30 January 2009 shall be paid by the Authority and Dwr Cymru. In addition, the CAT directed the Authority and Dwr Cymru to pay two-thirds of the costs claimed by Albion, by way of an interim payment.