British hauliers secure funding for £4bn truck cartel claim
The Road Haulage Association has secured money from Therium to pursue a case against at least five truck-makers, Sky News learns.
By Mark Kleinman, City Editor
British hauliers have secured backing for a multi-billion pound legal claim against five of the world's biggest vehicle manufacturers following a massive price-fixing fine imposed last year by the European Commission.
Sky News has learnt that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has lined up funding for a potentially vast compensation claim, which could see further penalties imposed on DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN and Volvo Group, which manufactures both Volvo and Renault trucks.
It is understood to be the first British legal claim emerging from the aftermath of a €2.93bn price-fixing fine imposed on the five companies last July by Brussels-based competition watchdogs.
Scania, another big multinational truck manufacturer, did not settle with the European Commission last year and is still thought to be under investigation.
It is also expected eventually to be included in the UK claim, which will be submitted to the Competition Appeal Tribunal.
Insiders said that the RHA would confirm further details of its plans to pursue the truck-makers this week, and had set up a dedicated website for both members and non-members to sign up to its claim.
The RHA estimates that roughly 650,000 trucks were sold in the UK between 1997 and 2011 – the 14-year period that the cartel was deemed by the European Commission to have been in operation.
Sources close to the claim suggested on Tuesday that average compensation of £6,000 per truck could be attainable, giving an aggregate potential value of £3.9bn.
The second-hand truck market is also said to have been affected by what the Commission described as cartel-like behaviour in both pricing and on moves to pass on the costs of compliance with stricter emissions rules.
The UK claim is being paid for by Therium Capital Management, a specialist litigation funder, which is understood to have amassed a multimillion-pound war chest to see the claim through to its conclusion.
Backhouse Jones, a solicitors, and Exchange Chambers, the barristers, will lead the claim, according to insiders.
Individuals who join the claim will not be charged for doing so.
The RHA is understood not to have decided yet on a deadline for participants to sign up.
Richard Burnett, the RHA's chief executive, is expected to say alongside the announcement that it is pressing ahead with the case that its members are "angry about the truck pricing cartel".
"UK truck-owners affected by the truck cartel have potentially paid too much for their lorries over a 14-year period and we're determined to get a fair deal for them," Mr Burnett is expected to say.
"This is a chance to get their compensation with no risk to their business or finances.
"As the representative body with sole responsibility for UK road freight operators, we are duty-bound to act on behalf of our members' wishes."
Last year's fines in Europe sent shockwaves through the business community as they smashed the record for penalties imposed on a single cartel.
Announcing them, Margrethe Vestager, the EU Competition Commissioner, said last July: "There are over 30 million trucks on European roads, which account for around three-quarters of inland transport of goods in Europe and play a vital role for the European economy.
"It is not acceptable that MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF, which together account for around nine out of every 10 medium and heavy trucks produced in Europe, were part of a cartel instead of competing with each other."
By blowing the whistle on the companies' activities, MAN avoided a fine that would have been in the region of €1.2bn.