The largest compensation awarded by a Court as a result of the cartel of truck manufacturers
The Mercantile Court of Seville (Section 3), by judgment of last December 30 that has just been published, has quantified at 20.75 percent of the price of purchase of the truck, the damage caused by the cartel of truck manufacturers that was sanctioned by the European Commission (Decision of 07/19/2016 in case AT 39824). It constitutes the highest percentage quantification of damages that has been granted to date in the entire European Union and has redounded in favor of a humble carrier who hired a leasing truck in 2007
The Commission initiated the aforementioned file against the main truck manufacturers in our continent (Man, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and Daf) for price distortion in units of more than 6 Tm between 1997 and 2011. These 5 firms acknowledged the facts to mitigate the rigor of the sanction. Despite the fine imposed in 2016, close to 3,000 million euros as a whole, it constituted a record in the community institutions. Scania did not admit its responsibility in said acts, the investigation against it continued separately and it was sanctioned in 2017 with 880 million euros.
The Seville judgment is based on the presumption of the existence of damages and losses in application of the Competition Defense Law, modified in May 2017 when transposing Community Directive 2014/104/EU . Contrary to the thesis of the defendant in that litigation (Volvo), all those who acquired medium and large tonnage trucks during the period of activity of the cartel suffered economic damage; it is presumed that they paid a price higher than the free market price.
The realization of the damage at 20.75% coincides with the conclusions of the expert report presented by the plaintiff. This figure results from the arithmetic mean of fraudulent price increases by cartels in our continent during the last century and the first decade of the present. The Court qualifies it as “an average achieved with objectivity in diverse and broader scenarios, consolidated in the specialized literature“.
The sentence rejects the premises of the expert presented by the defendant company, which defended the absence of any overpricing. It considers that it does not distort the claimant’s study, taking into account that it was in his power to make a detailed exposition of the fraudulent increases in prices due to “the availability of evidence and factual data that supported the essence of the violation”.
This resolution also condemns to pay the legal interest of the compensation to be computed from the date of purchase of the vehicle until the moment of payment. Compared to other Courts that have limited the accrual of interest only after the claim is filed, in this case the interest has been set back several years, increasing the amount to be received by the victim.
The same law firm JL Casajuana Abogados that has defended the victim in this lawsuit has already obtained a sentence against another manufacturer (Iveco) by the Commercial Court No. 1 of Bilbao in a sentence of 04/03/2018. Then the compensation was estimated at 15 percent of the purchase price of the vehicles, a percentage now exceeded. (See: “Sentence in the Cartel of Trucks that triples the compensation previously granted“)
In these two precedents, the acting Courts have considered that the limitation period of the compensation action is 5 years from the publication of the sanctioning Decision in the Official Gazette of the us. Thus, they dismiss the position of the members of the cartel who claimed the statute of limitations because more than a year had elapsed since the first information released by the Commission to the media, several months before the publication of the text of the Decision.