Businesses that bought or leased trucks from a cartel of European truck manufacturers over a period of 14 years still have time to pursue claims for being overcharged by those companies, following a significant decision in the Scottish courts.In July 2016 the European Commission found that five of Europe's largest truck manufacturers – MAN, DAF, Iveco, Volvo/Renault and Daimler – had taken part in a cartel between 1997 and 2011 with the aim of fixing prices for large and medium trucks.
A subsequent decision in September 2017 concluded that Scania was also involved in the cartel.
Haulage companies that bought or leased trucks between 1997 and 2011 are already seeking a pay-out tipped to be worth up to £5 billion through the Road Haulage Association (RHA), which is pursuing a claim on their behalf at the Competition Appeal Tribunal.
Law firms including Fieldfisher are handling around 20 separate claims.
In claims such as these, the liability is already determined, so the claimant only needs to show causation and loss.
The truck manufacturers have been trying to block further claims by arguing they will be time-barred.
However, on 11 November 2020 the Scottish Court of Session rejected a prescription (or limitation) strike out brought by the defendants in the trucks cartel in an action for damages by multiple Scottish public authorities.
Scottish and English limitation rules rely on separate legislation, but this ruling means claims can be made in Scotland up until July 2021 and for England up until July 2022.
Although a decision of the Scottish courts is not binding in England, it will be persuasive.
There is still potential for other claimants, including insolvency practitioners who may be managing insolvent companies, and companies that operated substantial fleets of trucks as part of their business but are not haulage businesses (such as retailers, manufacturers, food and beverage, fuel, construction and distribution companies), to recover damages.
Realistically, prospective claimants would want the estate to have operated a fleet of at least 50 trucks at any one time during that period for the claim to be viable.
Although this limits the number of likely claimants, the length of time for which the cartel operated coupled with the rapid expansion of distribution networks during that period means many more businesses are likely to come forward.
This article was authored by Julia Dodds, a director and specialist litigator in the dispute resolution team at Fieldfisher. If you are interested in pursuing a claim, please contact Julia directly.
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