An interesting European Commission decision has shined a light on a significant trucks cartel. On foot of the decision, a person or firm that purchased trucks between 1997 and 2011 could have a claim for damages.
The Trucks Cartel
The European Commission recently fined several truck manufacturers €2.93 billion for participating in a cartel between 1997 and 2011 which covered the entire European Economic Area (EEA).
The Commission carried out unannounced inspections in January 2011 after MAN revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission in an immunity application.
The following companies acknowledged their involvement in the cartel and agreed to settle the case:
Scania is still under investigation by the Commission.
The cartel specifically related to:
- coordinating prices at “gross list” level for medium and heavy trucks in the EEA. The “gross list” price level relates to the factory price of trucks, as set by each manufacturer. Generally, these gross list prices are the basis for pricing in the trucks industry. The final price paid by buyers is then based on further adjustments, done at national and local level, to these gross list prices.
- the timing for the introduction of emission technologies for medium and heavy trucks to comply with the increasingly strict European emissions standards.
- the passing on to customers of the costs for the emissions technologies required to comply with the increasingly strict European emissions standards.
The Commission published a press release in July 2016 and it will publish a non-confidential version of the decision containing more detailed information once confidentiality issues have been resolved.
The Commission decision constitutes binding proof that the cartel conduct took place and was illegal. This would facilitate a claim for damages as the cartelist cannot dispute its’ liability, but can contest the award of and the amount of damages.
In order to successfully pursue a claim for damages, proof would be required that the cartel caused loss or damage.
Awards of damages are generally based on the difference between the price actually paid for the product and the price that would have been paid in the absence of the cartel. This can be difficult to quantify in practice and economic advice is often required.
How to Claim
Neither the European Commission nor the CCPC has any power to award damages.
An action for damages may be brought by issuing proceedings in the Circuit Court or High Court, though where an action is brought in the Circuit Court damages will be capped at €75 000.
The Commission fine does not preclude or reduce an award of damages by National Courts.
The time limit within which proceedings must be issued in Ireland is six years in general and can be longer depending on the date the claimant became aware of the cartel.
For those who may be affected, the first step is to collect information regarding trucks purchased or leased from 1997 to 2011.