First settlement of opt-out class action set for approval hearing

CSAV: £1.5m settlement proposed

The first application to settle an opt-out class action since the regime began in 2015 has been lodged with the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT).

The CAT will be asked in December to approve the £1.5m settlement reached between Mark McLaren, class representative in the car delivery charges action, and CSAV, the smallest of the five defendant shipping groups.

CSAV has a 1.7% market share of the cartel, valuing the overall claim at around £88m. The claim website, however, says that “based on current calculations, the total value of the claim is in excess of £150m”.

It is thought that around a third of any recovery would go on costs and the fee of the third-party funder, Woodsford.

Mark McLaren, the class representative, has proposed to the CAT that the settlement money be held in escrow until the litigation is resolved against the other defendants.

Over 17 million cars are said to have been affected by the price-fixing scheme run by international shipping firms MOL, ‘K’ Line, NYK, WWL/EUKOR and CSAV. Those affected are consumers and businesses who bought new vehicles from many of the leading brands between October 2006 and September 2015.

The European Commission fined the five of them nearly €400m in 2018 for violating competition law.

The trial against the other four defendant companies is due to be listed for early 2025. Even though not all will put in a claim, the likely recovery for each member of the class looks small.

Mr McLaren said: “This is a major milestone in this case but, as the first ever collective settlement, it is also a significant development for the wider UK collective action regime.

“I am looking forward to the collective settlement approval hearing on 6 December 2023, to demonstrate to the tribunal why the settlement is in the best interests of class members.”

Steven Friel, chief executive of Woodsford, said the settlement “demonstrates the power of litigation funding to help hold large companies to account for their wrongdoing”.

The CAT granted a collective proceedings order in May 2022, a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal in November 2022. In May the Supreme Court refused to grant permission to appeal again.

Mr McLaren instructed Scott+Scott and a barrister team led by Sarah Ford KC of Brick Court Chambers. Wilmer Hale is acting for CSAV, instructing Sarah Abram KC, also of Brick Court.

The first collective proceedings order was only actually made in 2021, in the Mastercard litigation, after a protracted fight that went to the Supreme Court.

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