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RHA Truck Cartel Claim Update

17 August

The RHA’s multi-billion pound collective legal claim in the Competition Appeal Tribunal (Tribunal) against the truck manufacturers who were involved in the Truck Cartel is currently on hold after the RHA was successful in the first part of the process.  This is because the Tribunal is waiting for the Supreme Court to issue a judgment in another, unrelated collective claim and which will confirm to the Tribunal the test it must apply when it is deciding whether to allow collective claims like the RHA’s to proceed.

The RHA is nevertheless busy with aspects of the legal claim and this includes outreach to operators to encourage them to sign up to the claim.  The number of operators who have now signed up exceeds 12,500 and the number continues to increase by the day.  There are also more than 1,000 other operators who have registered their interest in the claim and are in the process of signing up.  Operators are still able to sign up by going to www.truckcartellegalaction.com.

In light of the delay to the case before the Tribunal, the RHA considered that it would be prudent to bring a claim also in the High Court – this is a different part of the court system from the Tribunal.  This claim was started on 18 March 2020 and is merely meant as a backup in the unlikely event that the Tribunal does not allow the RHA’s collective claim to proceed in the Tribunal.  After starting the claim, the RHA agreed with the truck manufacturers who are defendants in the claim that the claim should be put on hold until the Tribunal has decided whether the RHA’s collective claim can continue.  The RHA is hopeful that the Tribunal will take that decision in the first part of 2021.

Another important development in the case is that the European Commission has now released a non-confidential version of its decision in which a fine of €880.5 million was levied against Scania for their involvement in the Trucks Cartel (the Scania Decision).  This is a separate decision from that released by the European Commission in respect of the other truck manufacturers because Scania, unlike the other truck manufacturers, chose not to settle the case with the European Commission.

The Scania Decision confirms the broad nature of the Cartel in which the truck manufacturers were involved and provides a large number of examples of the illegal conduct over the 14-year cartel period. It is worth highlighting the following points by way of summary:

  • Scania, together with other members of the Cartel:
    • agreed and/or coordinated on intended changes of gross prices and gross price lists, as well as the respective timing of such changes;
    • coordinated on the timing and the passing on of costs for the introduction of emissions technologies for medium and heavy trucks required by Euro 3 to 6 standards; and
    • shared other commercially sensitive information such as delivery periods, order intake, stock figures, current net prices, gross price lists, and truck configurators.
  • A significant number of meetings occurred between the truck manufacturers’ representatives during the whole cartel period.  Prior to the meetings, information about intended price increases and the date they would be implemented was routinely shared.
  • In the early years of the cartel (until September 2004), top management of the manufacturers met at HQ level to discuss their pricing intentions, future gross price increases, and sometimes to agree their respective gross price increases.  The top management meetings were aimed at discussing pricing information and coordinating their respective pricing behaviour.
  • The pricing information exchanged was not limited to gross list prices for basic trucks but also trucks with their available options.
  • There were meetings at which the manufacturers specifically told their competitors the percentage increases that they would apply to their prices.
  • There were numerous other exchanges among the manufacturers.  One such example is an email sent to Scania in Germany: “Price increases 2005:  same as every year, the boss wants to know if and when you will increase prices next year.  For this reason, please share this information with everyone in order to save time of individual requests.”  Scania responded to explain the percentage by which it would increase its truck prices.
  • There was contact (at times intense and regular) in respect of when Euro 3 to 6 technologies would be introduced and how much the technologies would cost truck operators.

Although there are many parts of the Scania Decision that we cannot currently see, we will be able to obtain a copy of the full Decision in due course and it will no doubt further bolster the RHA’s claim on behalf of operators.

A more detailed summary of the judgment can be found on the RHA’s dedicated website here.

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