It has long been possible for someone harmed by the anti-competitive activities of others to sue for damages. It just hasn't happened very often. In part, this is because potential claimants are put off by the possibility of facing huge legal costs.

The Office of Fair Trading has recently issued a consultation paper on how to overcome these problems. It proposes ‘no win, no fee’ arrangements, allowing the claimant's lawyer an uplift of more than 100 per cent if the claim succeeds. It also wants clear guidance on cost-capping orders, so courts would be able to set a maximum for each party's liability for the other's costs if they lose.

The consultation paper also suggests making representative actions – cases brought by bodies on behalf of categories of people – more readily available, and it also looks at promoting more effective ways to resolve claims, such as a Competition Ombudsman.