The Competition Appeal Tribunal (‘Tribunal’) has today (8th June 2022) delivered a landmark judgment entitling the Road Haulage Association to proceed with its collective claim on behalf of hauliers seeking damages from the major European truck manufacturers who were found to have operated a price-fixing cartel between 1997 and 2011.
The claim is the first ever opt-in collective proceedings to have been certified by the Tribunal under the new regime and the RHA’s success is even more notable given that it faced a competing opt-out (alternatively opt-in) application by UK Trucks Claim Limited (“UKTC”) which was dismissed in its entirety. The RHA’s application was also fiercely contested by all of the truck manufacturers.
The RHA issued its application for a collective proceedings order or CPO in July 2018. However, the hearing to determine whether the Tribunal would award the CPO was held only in April 2021 following a stay of proceedings until the Supreme Court had delivered judgment providing guidance on the collective proceedings regime in another collective claim.
Based on the Tribunal’s judgment, the RHA’s action will cover the following claims by businesses of any size engaged in road haulage operations (on a hire and reward or own-account basis) in respect of trucks of 6 tonnes and over registered in the UK:
- Claims for new trucks purchased or leased between 17 January 1997 and 31 January 2014 – both short and long-term leases are included;
- Claims for used (pre-owned) trucks purchased or leased between 17 January 1997 and 31 January 2015; and
- Claims for increased costs due to the truck manufacturers’ coordinated delay in introducing new Euro emissions technologies during the cartel period and to 31 January 2014.
The judgment is undoubtedly an overwhelming success for the RHA and members of the class. The Tribunal nevertheless imposed some limits on the scope of the RHA’s collective proceedings owing to concerns over the complexity and/or proportionality of including certain elements proposed by the RHA. In particular, elements excluded by the Tribunal include:
- Trucks purchased or leased outside the UK (foreign trucks);
- Operators providing road haulage services exclusively on a cost-plus/open book basis where the cost of the trucks has been paid for in full by the recipient of the road haulage services; and
- Claimants who have brought individual actions (unless they discontinue those claims and opt into RHA’s claim).
The RHA claim, which over 18,000 operators have already joined or are planning to join, is currently valued at over £2 billion. Once the terms of the collective proceedings order have been confirmed by the Tribunal, there will be an opportunity for more truck operators to join the claim (including those who have already started individual actions) and the Tribunal agreed with RHA’s assessment that many more firms would likely do so.
Commenting, Richard Smith, Managing Director of the RHA said: “The RHA is delighted that the Tribunal has approved its application to represent the UK haulage industry in recovering damages on behalf of operators impacted by the truck cartel. There has been a significant amount of work and effort since launching the claim four years ago and this judgment represents a huge endorsement of the RHA’s determination to stand up and fight not only for its members but the industry as a whole. It is my understanding that our claimant group is the largest of its type in Europe and I would encourage anyone who has not yet signed up to do so.”
Representing the RHA, Steven Meyerhoff, Director at Backhouse Jones said: “This judgment, in which the RHA has succeeded on almost every single point (despite the truck manufacturers’ attempts to derail the action) demonstrates that the Competition Appeal Tribunal’s opt-in regime is very much suited for well thought-out applications on behalf of large and small businesses seeking redress for anti-competitive behaviour. The RHA has ticked all of the boxes and we look forward to progressing the claim as quickly as possible in order to obtain redress for those operators who are part of the claim.”