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Competition law claims

Competition law claims

The purpose of competition law is to prevent anti-competitive behaviour in the market, ensuring fair business practices for the market and, ultimately, consumers. Anti-competitive practices damage the efficient operation of the market which can damage consumers through inferior products, or higher prices than would be the case under effective competition.

UK businesses are subject to both domestic law and EU law, despite the effects of Brexit

EU businesses that operate in other jurisdictions are also subject to the domestic law of the jurisdictions in which they operate.

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.

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Stand alone cases

Stand alone cases exist where an infringement has not been established by a competition authority. In these cases the individual claimant must prove the breach of competition law and also that the infringement caused harm

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).

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Follow on cases

Follow on cases exist where the infringement of competition law has been established by a competition authority, and those that are damaged can rely on the infringement decision as proof of the decision. The claimant in this case only needs to prove damage.

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-in opt-out cases

The majority of class actions in the UK operate on an opt-in basis. This means that in order to participate in a claim, each prospective class member has to actively join the proceedings or authorise another to bring the claim on their behalf.

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.

  • Maitland Walker's formidable competition team - unrivalled, sector specific, experience of EU and UK competition law, with the ability to to react to post-brexit implications for companies.
    Julian Maitland-Walker
  • Julian Maitland-Walker has unrivalled experience, particularly acting for claimants. Adrian Render is also very experienced and very good
  • I have worked with Julian Maitland-Walker and Sheree-Ann Virgin. Both appear to me to be excellent practitioners who understand the needs of their client and ensure that the litigation is conducted in a way that meets those needs. They are both extremely pleasant to deal with. They are intelligent and thoughtful individuals with good commercial instincts.
Taunton, Minehead, London
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Minehead, London, Taunton
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