The UK High Court has sent a strong signal to businesses in a dominant position that it is willing to grant interim injunctions to protect businesses who accuse others of abusing their dominance when the latter refuse to supply them services. This case further corroborates the status of the UK as the pre-eminent claimant friendly EU jurisdiction for companies seeking to enforce competition law before the national Courts.
The case of Dahabshiil Transfer Services Ltd v Barclays Bank plc and Harada Ltd and another v Barclays Bank plc  EWHC 3379 (Ch) was heard before the English High Court on the 5 November 2013. All three claimants ran businesses in Somalia but bought their claims in the UK against Barclays Bank Plc (Barclays). Dahabsbill Transfer Services Lts (Dahabsbill) ran a money remittance service, Harada Limited (Harada) a money exchange service, and Berkeley Credit and Guarantee Limited (BCG) a pawn broking business. The three claimants relied on Barclays for their banking services in Somalia.
Barclays gave notice to these business that it would withdraw its banking services to them. The three claimants bought a competition law claim. They claimed that since Barclays was dominant in the provision of banking services to their sector of business, known as money service businesses, the withdrawal from the market by Barclays would prejudice their businesses and would amount by Barclays to an abuse of its dominant position. Until the Court hearing on this matter, the Claimants sought that Barclays be served an interim injunction preventing Barclays from withdrawing its services to allow the three claimants to continue their business.
The Court held that this interim injunction be granted. Although businesses are generally free to contract with whom they wish, companies in a dominant position in a particular EU or national Community market are subject to a higher set of standards due to the reliance of others on their trading relationships. The Court was persuaded by the Claimants that there was a serious question to be considered at trial over whether Barclays had a dominant position in the money services market and whether, by withdrawing the services, it had abused that position. A question of dominance was established by Dahabshill which showed the Court evidence that Barclays had a high market share in the UK in its particular banking activities with Somalia.
In considering the appropriateness of an interim injunction, the Court found particularly persuasive the potential harm before trial that could befall the claimants if Barclays services were removed. In this situation damages were clearly not an adequate remedy. This was coupled with the fact that the claimants had good business records with Barclays and that all parties (including Barclays) would continue to make a profit as a result of the injunction before the Court hearing. Lastly equivalent, alternative banking arrangements were not available to the Claimants as such services were of a lesser standard, limited or non-existent compared to the service they received from Barclays.