For the first time in the UK the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) is considering a “Class
Action” competition claim brought by the Consumers’ Association against JJB Sports (JJB).
This is a significant development as it may lead to greater private enforcement in cases
where the individual losses are widely disbursed and/or small.

The Consumers’ Association is acting on behalf of about 130 individual consumers.
Under section 47B of the Competition Act (introduced by the Enterprise Act 2002, in force
on 20 June 2003) a specified body may bring a consumer claim on behalf of at least two
individuals. The Consumers’ Association is a specified body under the Specified Body
(Consumer Claims) Order 2005)

Background

On 1 August 2003, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced that it had concluded a
long-running investigation into the retail pricing of replica England and Manchester United
football kits and that it had fined ten businesses a total of £18.6 million for price-fixing in
breach of the Chapter I prohibition of the Competition Act 1998.

In a judgment handed down on 19 May 2005, the CAT reduced the fine imposed on JJB to
£6.7 million JJB appealed the CAT’s judgments to the Court of Appeal. On 19 October
2006, the Court of Appeal dismissed this appeal in its entirety The House of Lords refused
leave to appeal on 5 February 2007.

Claim

The Consumers’ Association has brought a claim against JJB under section 47B of the
Competition Act on behalf of some 130 consumers who purchased replica Manchester
United football shirts at the launches for the 2000/2001 and 2001/2002 seasons, or replica
England shirts in the month before and at the time of the Euro 2000 tournament. It is
seeking: 

  • Compensatory damages of such sum as the CAT considers appropriate in respect of
    each shirt bought by a consumer from a participant in one of the three infringements
    during the period of the infringement found by the OFT and the CAT. 
  • Exemplary or restitutionary damages in the sum of 25% of the relevant turnover of
    JJB, net of VAT, or such other sum as the CAT considers appropriate, to be distributed
    in accordance with the direction of the CAT. 
  • Alternatively, all necessary accounts and inquiries and an order for payment of all such
    sums as may be found to be due and payable by the defendant to the claimant upon
    taking of such inquiry.
  • Further or other relief, interest and the expenses and disbursements incurred by the
    Consumers’ Association in bringing the claim on the consumers’ behalf.