FFirst material judgment in Dutch damages proceedings in trucks infringement

Article
NL Law
EU Law

In its judgment of 12 May 2021, the Amsterdam District Court ruled that it has not been established that it is definitively excluded that the trucks infringement led to damage to the claimants. However, this does not alter the fact that it must still be assessed for each claimant whether the threshold for referral to the damages assessment procedure has been met. For this to be the case, it must be plausible that a claimant may have suffered damage as a result of the unlawful actions of the truck manufacturers. The Amsterdam District Court has not yet ruled on this issue.

On 12 May 2021, the Amsterdam District Court rendered an interim judgment on the merits in the trucks cartel follow-on proceedings.

In this interim judgment, the District Court rendered a decision on the topics discussed during the court hearing in November 2020. This mainly included the scope of the decision of the European Commission (EC) and the question whether it can be entirely excluded that damage has occurred.

Facts and status of Dutch follow-on proceedings

In its decision of 19 July 2016, the EC found that several truck manufacturers had infringed Article 101 TFEU. Following this decision, numerous civil damages claims have been brought before national courts in the EEA, including the Netherlands.

So far, the pending damages proceedings in the Netherlands have been managed in three ‘groups’. The interim judgment discussed here relates to the first set of joint proceedings.

Judgment Amsterdam District Court

The District Court ruled that it is bound by the operative part of the decision of the EC and the infringing behaviour it establishes. However, it allows the parties to provide further facts to give context to the facts established by the EC.

In addition, the District Court ruled that it cannot be entirely excluded that the trucks infringement led to damage to the claimants. However, this does not alter the fact that it will have to be assessed for each claimant whether the threshold for referral to the damages assessment procedure has been met. For this to be the case, it must be plausible that a claimant may have suffered damage as a result of the unlawful actions of the truck manufacturers. The District Court has not yet ruled on this issue.

This means that the proceedings will continue, and that – in the light of the defences put forward by the truck manufacturers – the damages claims will be further substantively assessed. Whether the proceedings will be referred to the damages assessment proceedings, and the outcome of any potential damages assessment, remains to be seen.

Conclusion

The District Court has ruled that it cannot entirely be excluded that damage has occurred. Therefore, the next step is to assess for each claimant whether the threshold for referral to the damages assessment proceedings has been met. The Court has not yet taken a decision on this.

This article was published in the Competition Newsletter of June 2021. Other articles in this newsletter: