The Court of Justice of the European Union recently further clarified which courts within the EU have jurisdiction to hear follow-on damage claims. This can be either the court of the place where the claimant purchased a cartelized product, or where the claimant has its registered office (domicile), or at a centralized court designated by the EU member state for specific types of cases.
On 15 July 2021 in case C-30/20, Volvo and others, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the "Court") provided further guidance on which courts have jurisdiction to hear follow-on damage claims.
Article 7(2) of the Brussels I regulation (recast) confers jurisdiction to the court of the place where the damage occurred. Previously, the Court has held that if a competition law infringement purportedly affected the market in a certain EU member state, the place where the damage occurred could be located in that member state, conferring jurisdiction to that member state's courts (case C-451/18, Tibor Trans, see our newsletter article on that judgment here).
The judgment in Volvo and others further clarifies which courts within an EU member state have jurisdiction. The main takeaways are:
- Article 7(2) of the Brussels I regulation (recast) directly determines which court within an EU member state has jurisdiction. For that purpose, it must be established at which place within an EU member state the damage occurred.
- National rules conferring jurisdiction to courts within an EU member state's territory, are irrelevant, with one exception: EU member states are not precluded from designating centralized courts to deal with specific types of cases. Centralization before a specialized court may be justified in the interests of the sound administration of justice and may be particularly helpful in cases that concern technically complex issues and rules, such as follow-on damage claims.
- If an EU member state has not designated a centralized court, the place where the damage occurred is the place:
- where the claimant purchased the goods affected by the anticompetitive behavior; or
- if the claimant has purchased goods in multiple places, the place where the claimant's registered office is located.
With (3), the Court also further specifies its earlier ruling on international jurisdiction: if a claimant purchased goods in one EU member state within the affected market, that member state's courts have jurisdiction. If the claimant purchased goods in multiple EU member states, the claimant can bring his claim for follow-on damages in the EU member state where his registered office is located.
The Court's judgment in Volvo and others provides useful guidance for determining courts' jurisdiction to hear follow-on damage claims. From the perspective of claimants, the judgment can be seen as helpful, as it gives claimants the opportunity to claim damages close to home (i.e. at the court of their registered office) if they purchased goods that were affected by anticompetitive conduct in multiple places.
From the defendant's perspective, the judgment will likely have limited impact, as the Court's ruling in Tibor-Trans had already conferred international jurisdiction to the courts of all EU member states whose markets were purportedly affected by the anticompetitive behaviour. This relatively wide interpretation of the place where damage occurred already potentially exposes defendants to follow-on damage claims throughout the EU.
The Netherlands does not have any centralized courts that deal with follow-on damage claims. If follow-on damage claims are brought in the Netherlands, the rule under (3) above will therefore determine which courts in the Netherlands have jurisdiction to hear a specific claimant's claim.
This article was published in the Competition Newsletter of August 2021. Other articles in this newsletter:
Are your distribution contracts ready for the revised VBER?
Horizontal cooperation: from the dark side to the light?
ACM issues first excessive pricing fine in pharma
Court rules ACM can use accidental evidence found in dawn raids
Netherlands FDI regime protecting national security is getting closer
Amsterdam Court of Appeal rules on the applicable law to air freight
Court assesses threshold for substantiating cartel damage plausibility