CJEU Rules on Jurisdiction in Private Damages Actions for Infringement of Competition Law in Absence of Contractual Link between Plaintiff and Participant to Cartel
On 29 July 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) handed down a judgment in which it held that a domestic court in an EU Member State has jurisdiction to rule on a follow-on competition damages claim even when no direct contractual link exists between the participant to a cartel and the victim.
The case concerned a civil action for damages initiated by Tibor-Trans Fuvarosó és Kereskedelmi Kft (Tibor-Trans), a freight transport company based in Hungary, against DAF Trucks NV (DAF), a trucks manufacturer headquartered in the Netherlands. The case was initiated before Hungarian courts by Tibor-Trans following the 2016 decision of the European Commission which found that, between 1997 and 2011, the international truck manufacturers, including DAF, had colluded on pricing and on the timing and the passing on of costs for the introduction of emission technologies (Case AT.39824 – Trucks).
Tibor-Trans brought its follow-on action for damages against DAF alleging that it had suffered financial harm as a result of the collusive arrangements between truck companies. Tibor-Trans said it had heavily invested in the purchase of new trucks between 2000 and 2008. In order to purchase those trucks, Tibor-Trans had secured financing from leasing companies which retained ownership of the vehicles until the expiry of the leasing agreements. The right of ownership only passed on to Tibor-Trans after performance of its obligations under the leasing agreements. Thus, although Tibor-Trans never purchased any DAF trucks, it claimed to be a direct victim of the anti-competitive infringement, considering that (i) the leasing companies only provided financing and completely passed on the overcharge to Tibor-Trans; and (ii) in Hungary, customers were only able to purchase trucks from independent dealers, and not directly from the original equipment manufacturers.
Tibor-Trans argued that Hungarian courts had jurisdiction to rule in that case. Tibor-Trans relied more particularly on Article 7(2) of Regulation 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on the jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (the Brussels Ibis Regulation) which provides that “[a] person domiciled in a Member State may be sued in another Member State: […] in matters relating to tort, delict or quasi-delict, in the courts for the place where the harmful event occurred or may occur“.READ MORE