07 January 2016

Car glass cartel: Peugeot Citroën brings follow-on damages claim in the Competition Appeal Tribunal

On 22 December 2015, the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal (the CAT) published a notice that Peugeot Citroën Automobiles UK Ltd and other group companies (the Claimants) brought a follow-on damages claim against Pilkington Group Limited and Pilkington Automotive Limited (the Defendants) under s.47A of the Competition Act 1998, relating to losses incurred as a result of the Defendants’ involvement in the car glass cartel.

In its decision of November 2008 in the car glass cartel case, the European Commission (the Commission) imposed total fines of €1.384bn on four companies, including Pilkington, for their participation in a market-sharing cartel in the car glass sector, contrary to EU competition law. Pilkington subsequently lodged an appeal against this decision in the General Court, which was dismissed in December 2014.

The Claimants have already launched proceedings against the Defendants in the High Court’s Chancery Division. In initiating parallel proceedings in the CAT, the Claimants are primarily seeking to protect their position as regards limitation: in August 2015, the Court of Appeal ruled that any claim relating to a period more than six years prior to the commencement of proceedings would be time barred under the Limitation Act 1980. Due to the fact that the Defendants’ illegal conduct in the car glass cartel occurred between 1998 and 2002 and the Commission's initial 2008 decision was issued more than six years prior to the commencement of proceedings, there is a possibility, though the fact is denied by the Claimants, that their claim in the High Court may be time-barred.

In relation to the CAT, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 extended the limitation period for follow-on and stand-alone damages actions arising after 1 October 2015, so that claimants now have six years from the date of the loss to bring proceedings in the CAT, in line with the limitation period in the ordinary courts. However, for damages claims arising prior to 1 October 2015, the recently introduced CAT Rules 2015 state that the old limitation rules continue to apply. The old rules specify that the claim must be brought within a period of two years from the date (i) on which the cause of action accrued; (ii) of the infringement decision or, crucially in this case, (iii) on which any appeal against the decision was finally determined. Though it is not yet clear whether “claims arising” will be interpreted as the date the claim is made, or the date of the activity which potentially infringes competition law, the Claimants have taken the view that since their claim relates to activity which occurred before 1 October 2015, they are able to rely on the old limitation rules. On this basis, they are therefore bringing their claim comfortably within two years of the dismissal of Pilkington's appeal in December 2014.

This approach will test the interpretation of the transitional period for the new CAT limitation periods introduced by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

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