Vincent led the team in the ground breaking, ongoing, collective damages claim in against the air cargo cartel, representing a group of small and medium business claimants (for example, importers of flowers from Africa and Latin America) who are heavy users of air freight services.
To create a claim of sufficient weight to attract litigation finance and to reduce the possible risk of retaliatory commercial action by the airlines against smaller users, Vincent created a collective claims package allowing the businesses to bring their action while retaining enough flexibility to ensure their individual commercial interests were protected.
The case was brought on the basis that two of the flower importers represented the group of claimants ready to participate in the claim, but also all those having the same interest in the claim against the cartel. The representative action mechanism is more than a century old, and had not previously been used in the context of a claim against a cartel. Although the representative element of the claim was ultimately unsuccessful – thus moving away from an English version of the US ‘class’ action – the English courts did confirm the availability of group orders to bring together competition claims for litigants who had already made a claim. The parallel class action against the same cartel in the US has already achieved compensation of over $400 million for the cartel’s victims.
In April 2011 the UK exemption in relation to land agreements was repealed leaving many restrictions over land subject to competition law for the first time. Restrictive covenants, such as those contained routinely in commercial developments for shopping malls and in outdoor advertising agreements are all likely to be affected. The review of land agreements to determine the enforceability of such restrictions (and their ability to attract fines) will be important exercise in understanding any risks posed by them for many businesses.