A legal action filed in the UK against five major shipping companies hopes to win back small "overpayments" for new car buyers.
The group legal action to the Competition Appeal Tribunal follows the European Commission ruling that shipping companies MOL, K Line, NYK, WWL/EUKOR and CSAV had violated EU competition law.
The European Commission imposed fines of more than 395 million euros after deciding the shippers had coordinated rates, allocated tenders, coordinated reductions of capacity in the market and exchanged commercially sensitive information to maintain or increase the price of intercontinental shipping of new vehicles.
The UK action against the five companies is being brought under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 by class representative and consumer rights champion Mark McLaren, who previously worked at Which? The Consumers' Association and currently sits on the Consumer Panel of the Legal Services Board.
“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," said McLaren, who has instructed dispute resolution law firm Scott+Scott UK, a barrister team led by Sarah Ford QC of Brick Court Chambers, and secured funding from Woodsford Litigation Funding, that ensures class members will not pay costs or fees to participate.
McLaren said the claim value is believed to be around £150 million, or up to £60 per new car or light commercial vehicle.
Consumers and businesses which purchased one or more new cars or LCVs between October 2006 and September 2015 from a selection of mainstream manufacturers, including BMW, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen, are automatically included within the class, and would be entitled to compensation if the action succeeds.
McLaren has put together an advisory committee led by former Court of Appeal judge Sir Richard Aitkens, which includes Kate Wellington, chief executive of the Costs Lawyer Standards Board, Nick Stace, former chief executive of The Prince's Trust and a non-executive director of the Financial Conduct Authority, plus Auto Express editor-in-chief Steve Fowler.
The UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal is a court which hears and decides cases involving competition or economic regulatory issues.