A £150m claim against car shipping companies for overcharging customers has passed a legal hurdle, enabling fleets and drivers to recoup overpayments.
The claim was first announced two years ago and concerns a number of shipping companies said to have orchestrated price fixing on intercontinental shipping of new cars and vans.
The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has now published a legal notice declaring that the claim can proceed as an opt-out collective action, or class action, with Mark McLaren acting as the class representative through a not-for-profit company, incorporated to bring the claim.
It’s one of the first opt-out proceedings certified by the CAT on behalf of consumers and the first on behalf of businesses, which means that if successful, any UK motorist or business who bought or leased affected new cars between October 2006 and September 2015 will automatically be entitled to compensation, without having to opt-in.
A total of 17 million cars are said to have been affected by the price fixing scheme and the claim value is expected to be up to £60 per car.
Mark McLaren, class representative, said: “I am delighted by the CAT’s decision to certify this claim as eligible to proceed as a collective action. The claim will now progress to trial and I look forward to securing compensation for millions of UK consumers and businesses.”
The shipping companies have already been fined by the European Commission; a ruling on 21 February 2018 found they had violated EU competition law, and had coordinated rates, allocated tenders, coordinated reductions of capacity in the market and exchanged commercially sensitive information to maintain or increase the price of intercontinental shipping of new vehicles. The companies were fined more than €395m (£339m) while outside the EU, regulatory fines have since exceeded $755m (£614m).
McLaren stressed that the claim is the only means to secure compensation for new car and van buyers in the UK who suffered loss as a result of the price fixing.
“This claim demonstrates how legal action can hold companies accountable and secure access to justice for affected consumers and businesses,” he added.
The case is Case 1339/7/7/20 Mark McLaren Class Representative Limited v MOL (Europe Africa) Ltd & Others, and McLaren has instructed law firm Scott+Scott, a specialist dispute resolution firm whose solicitors have extensive expertise in competition litigation.
Class members who do not wish to be included now have an opportunity to opt-out, which would mean they will not be entitled to claim a share of any settlement or damages recovered in due course. For more details on the opt-out process, class members should visit the claim website.
24 June 2022