Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Road Freight Interests See Progress in Class Action by Road Haulage Group Against Truck Cartel

Claim is Now Before Competition Appeal Tribunal
Shipping News Feature
UK – EUROPE – Regular readers with an eye on the road freight industry will be aware of the accusations of cartel activity aimed squarely at some of the continent's major truck manufacturers, accusations which resulted in €2.9 billion fines for four of the five companies involved two years ago. Subsequently fines for Scania, which had pled innocence, pushed this up to €3.8 billion. With the Road Haulage Association (RHA) subsequently coordinating a legal class action on behalf of its members, and indeed other operators, the latest developments see the long legal battle begin to take shape and substance.

The RHA has now submitted its claim application to the Competition Appeal Tribunal and says that, if successful, UK transport operators could be in for a possible windfall of over £6,000 for every 6-tonne and above vehicle bought or leased between 1997 and 2011. Broadly speaking, operators are entitled to claim for the difference between what they paid for their trucks (new, second-hand or leased) and what they would have paid had the cartel not existed.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said the truck makers had been operating ‘behind closed doors’ and called for transparency. He commented:

“If the RHA’s competition claim is successful, there is a strong potential that the majority of the industry’s operators will benefit. This won’t happen overnight, it’s a long process. But we will continue to push for a result that will help the thousands of operators who have been dealt a poor deal. We estimate that the truck cartel will have impacted upon the buyers of 600,000 trucks that were purchased in the UK between 1997 and 2011, amounting to a potential compensation claim of over £5 billion.

”On the same basis, we estimate that operators in the rest of Europe bought 3.4 million trucks and could also be due compensation of over £25 billion. We are concerned that the profits made on the back of truck sales could be the tip of a cartel iceberg. Many of the truck manufacturers have a motor ‘arm’, Volvo, Renault, Mercedes and Iveco (Fiat and Ferrari). And who can forget the VW emissions scandal in 2015?”

VW are the automotive side of truck manufacturers Scania and MAN (which as the whistleblower escaped the EU penalty completely). More than 50,000 VW owners have signed up for that class action in a bid to get a pay-out because of defeat devices installed to fool emission tests, and there is some speculation that they may receive up to 100% of the original cost of their cars, on average around £17,500. The European Commission has also said it is investigating allegations of collusion among the German car manufacturers over emissions having seen the depths of collusion in the truck cartel case.

To process the class action suit the RHA built a dedicated website which so far has seen over 3,600 operators sign up representing over 160,000 trucks sold or leased during the cartel period. A further almost 700 operators have registered their interest and are in the process of signing up. Other class action suits are also being pursued for example by lawyers CollyerBristow.