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Resource Centre > Cases > Decisions of national courts and authorities

GROUP LITIGATION and collective settlements – judgements of national courts, explanations of key collective redress cases.

EU Member States: 

UK:

Football T-Shirts case (JJB Sports):

In 2003 a number of companies were fined by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for price fixing of replica football t-shirts in 2000 and 2001. JJB Sports was one of these companies - it had to pay £6,7million after the fine was reduced by the Competition Appeals Tribunal. The company then offered anyone who comes forward with the t-shirt in question (whether bought from them or from another retailer) another, current England t-shirt and a mug. Around 16,000 people used this offer.

in March 2007 Which? Consumers Association brought a collective claim for damages before the Competition Appeals Tribunal (which it has the power to do under the Enterprise Act 2002 following a decision by the Tribunal which establishes a breach of competition law). Which? believed that almost 2 million people overpaid around £15-£20 per t-shirt (although this was never established by the OFT or the CAT). The claim also included exemplary damages for disregard for consumers. A media campaign was launched in order to have as many people as possible opt-in to the action. A small number of people (around 600) indeed opted in, and in January 2008 the claim was settled (£20 per t-shirt would be paid back to consumers who joined the action).

For further details on this case, see C. Hodges "Reform of Class and Representative Actions in European Legal Systems".

Belgium:

Duchesne SA:

The first case involving the Injunctions Directive - UK Office of Fair Trading brought a case in Belgium against a trader who sent unsolicited mail order catalogues to UK residents. The Belgian Court of First Instance and later also the Court of Appeal issued an injunction against the trader, with a fine of 2,500 Euro per mailing.

The Netherlands:

DEXIA settlement:

The case involved Dexia Bank and its customers (Dexia merged with a loan company which offered equity lease agreements to customers - these involved investments of loans in shares). Almost 400,000 customers were concerned. When the share index fell between 2000 and 2003, so did the share values which became much lower than the loan debts. Mediation process between Dexia and some representative organisations led to a settlement which was then approved by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal in 2007. According to the Dutch collective settlement model, this court-approved settlement is then binding on all those who do not opt out within a specified time period. 10% (23,000) indeed opted out.

For more information see C. Hodges (2008: 74).

Shell Hydrocarbon Reserves settlement:

The case involved re-categorisation of almost 4 million barrels of oil equivalent following investigations by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the UK Financial Services Authority. The re-categorisation led to a fall in Shell share prices. A class action was brought in the US, and Shell also made an offer to compensate European investors who purchased shares in Royal Dutch Shell or Shell Transport & Trading between 1999 and 2004. The settlement was negotiated and agreed with VEB, the Dutch Shareholders Association (supported by the UK Shareholders Association and other European shareholder associations). The parties to the settlement agreement include Shell, institutional investors including APG, All Pensions Group (on behalf of pension fund ABP) and PGGM (on behalf of Stichting Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn), the Vereniging van Effectenbezitters (VEB), the Dutch shareholders association representing individual shareholders in The Netherlands and similar organizations, and the Stichting Shell Reserves Compensation Foundation. The settlement agreement provides relief in the amount of US$352.6 million to qualifying non-U.S.-shareholders who bought Shell shares on any stock exchange outside the United States between April 8, 1999 and March 18, 2004 (the Non-US Settlement) (see the website: https://www.royaldutchshellsettlement.com/ for further details). In March 2008 Shell announced its wish to settle US claims. Both settlements are now subject to approval by courts: the US settlement by the US court, and the European settlement by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal (under the Dutch Collective Settlement Act).

France:

Mobile Phones and Que Choisir case:

This is an ongoing situation: it involves mobile phone companies (including SFR) engaged in a market-sharing cartel, as confirmed by the French competition court, and an illegal increase in the subscription rates for customers (in fact, Que Choisir calculated that around 20 million customers were overcharged). So far, the case is pending. Que Choisir – a French consumer association – brought a representative action (action en representation conjointe – Article L 422-1 of the Consumer Code) against the members of the cartel. However, the French law requires all consumers who are represented to give written consent: over 12,000 consumers did so.

For more details on this case see: C. Hodges (2008: 84).

See also the website: http://www.cartelmobile.org – this is a website established by Que Choisir for consumers to join the action and establish the amount of compensation they ought to claim. The website contains updates on the situation – the latest one being the decision of the Court of Appeal of Paris confirming the decision of the competition court mentioned above. The updates section also mentions that the decision of the Cour de Cassation is not to be expected before 2010!

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