Motorists who bought a new car between 2005 and 2015 will find out whether they should be able to automatically receive a payout from five of the world’s biggest shipping companies in a £150 million legal case.
A three-day hearing at the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London begins on Monday, to decide whether a collective proceedings order (CPO) can be launched on behalf of UK consumers and businesses, which would see payouts on about 17 million vehicles.
Mark McLaren, formerly of consumer group Which? will argue that the class action suit should proceed, which means anyone who bought an affected car will be automatically entitled to compensation.
The companies are accused of setting up cartels to inflate charges for shipping during nine years.
If found in breach of competition laws, they could have to pay out £150 million to thousands of car buyers.
Bosses have already admitted to officials at the European Commission that the cartels existed, leading to a fine of nearly 400 million euros (£340 million), but now they face payouts to motorists in the UK.
Mark McLaren, who is bringing the group action on behalf of consumers and businesses, explained: “This hearing is a significant milestone in our case that will decide whether UK consumers and businesses affected by the shipping cartels can access justice and receive compensation.
“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.”
The five companies are MOL, “K” Line NYK, WWL/EUKOR and CSAV.
If successful, motorists could be due a refund of around £60 per vehicle leased or bought, and it affects 80% of all new car and van sales in the UK.
Law firm Scott+Scott UK has been instructed with funding from Woodsford Litigation Funding, a leading litigation funder.
Investigations and hearings over the cartels have already taken place in Australia China Japan, the US, Brazil and South Africa, among others – with fines handed out in excess of 755 million dollars (£591 million).
Customers affected include those who bought from Ford, Vauxhall, Volkswagen, Peugeot, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota, Citroen and Renault between October 2006 and September 2015.