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Limitation period for cartel damages proceedings in the CAT


Deutsche Bahn AG v Morgan Crucible Company Plc [2011] CAT 16

The Competition Appeal Tribunal struck out the cartel damages claims brought by Deutsche Bahn and other claimants against Morgan Crucible on the ground that they were out of time.

In so doing, the CAT clarified an important point on the interpretation of the limitation provisions in the Competition Act 1998. The damages claims were brought in reliance on the decision of the European Commission dated 3 December 2003 finding that Morgan Crucible and others had participated in a cartel fixing the price of electrical and mechanical carbon products. Rule 31 of the Tribunal's Rules provides that a claim for damages must be made within a period of two years "from the end of the period specified in section [47A (8)] of the 1998 Act". That is, the period during which proceedings against the Commission decision may be instituted in the European Court or, if any such proceedings are instituted, the period before those proceedings are determined. The claimants argued that their claims were in time because they were brought within two years of the determination by the European Court of appeals against the decision brought by other addressees of the decision. Morgan Crucible itself had not appealed and argued that the appeals of others were irrelevant for the purposes of applying the limitation period. The CAT agreed with Morgan Crucible, holding that the Commission decision was, in reality, a bundle of individual decisions addressed to the various participants in the cartel. The word ‘decision' in section 47A(8) of the 1998 Act therefore referred to the decision addressed to Morgan Crucible and not to the decision as a whole.

The judgment is here.

Marie Demetriou represented Morgan Crucible.