Motorists who bought a new car between 2006 and 2015 should be entitled to compensation due to five of the world’s largest shipping companies fixing prices for shipping, a tribunal has heard.
The businesses are accused of setting up cartels to inflate charges for shipping during nine years, and if found in breach of competition laws could be forced to pay out £150 million to thousands of car buyers.
Bosses have already admitted the cartels existed to officials at the European Commission, leading to a fine of nearly 400 million euros (£348 million), but now they face payouts to motorists in the UK.
Mark McLaren, who is bringing the group action on behalf of consumers and businesses, explained: “When UK consumers and businesses purchased or leased a new car, they paid more for the delivery of that car than they should have done, as a result of a long-running cartel by five of the world’s leading maritime shipping companies.
“I have spent much of my career working in consumer protection and I strongly believe that compensation should be paid when consumers are harmed by such deliberate, unlawful conduct.”
The five companies are MOL, “K” Line, NYK, WWL/EUKOR and CSAV.
If successful, motorists could be due a refund of around £60 per vehicle leased or bought, and affects 80% of all new car and van sales in the UK.
Law firm Scott+Scott UK has been instructed, with Sarah Ford QC of Brick Court Chambers leading the case at the Competition Appeal Tribunal, with funding from Woodsford Litigation Funding, a leading litigation funder.
David Scott, of Scott+Scott UK, said: “Claims of this kind, where very large numbers of class members each suffered losses that are too small to litigate individually, are precisely the types of claim that the UK collective actions regime was designed to facilitate.”
Investigations and hearings over the cartels have already taken place in Australia, China, Japan, the US, Brazil and South Africa, among others – with fines handed out in excess of 755 million dollars (£591 million).