Private enforcement of competition law can be undertaken by anyone that has, or will, suffer harm from a breach of competition law. This can include producers, suppliers, customers, consumers or competitors.
Competition law can be relevant to all types of agreements, including verbal or informal agreements.
Breaches of competition law can result in fines and damages, as well as criminal sanctions for individuals in the UK, and director disqualification.
Claimant’s may bring their claim to either the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) or the general courts (either in the UK or in another jurisdiction that could hear the claim). In English courts, the limitation period allows claims to be brought six years from the date on which the breach accrued (but can be longer if the abuse is secret, and therefore not known for many years).
Follow on cases can be brought before either the High Court or the CAT in the UK, or in the domestic courts of the damage where the damage has been caused or incurred.
Opt-out proceedings were adopted in the UK in 2015. These actions permit a single person to bring a claim on behalf of an entire ‘class’ of persons damaged by the breach of competition law, without express permission from each of the class members.
The opt-out regime is much more effective than opt-in proceedings. In the former, a single person can bring the claim on behalf of millions of affected individuals – see for example our case of Boyle V Govia Thameslink Railway & Others, Here, a single person, Mr Boyle, represents approximately 1 million rail passengers in proceedings valued at in excess of £500m. if the same case were brought on an opt-in basis, each of the 1 million class members would need to opt into the claim, which would be expensive and very time consuming.
In opt-out proceedings the individuals in the class are bound by the Tribunal’s judgment and will share in damages.