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Consumer organisation Which? has instructed Clyde & Co on the class action it is threatening to bring against JJB Sports in front of the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT), the first of its kind.
Which? wants to sue JJB on behalf of people who bought replica England and Manchester United football shirts between 2000 and 2001.
In 2003 an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) probe into price collusion between JJB Sports, Umbro, AllSports and others over the replica shirts culminated in a £18.6m fine. DLA Piper represented JJB in the investigation and subsequent appeals.
The cartel’s total £18.6m fine was payable directly to the regulator. But Which? was granted powers to bring claims on behalf of wronged consumers under the Enterprise Act of 2002.
It has now decided to use those powers for the first time to sue JJB particularly. Which? is the only UK organisation to hold such powers.
Although JJB was only part of the cartel, it is unclear why Which? has singled it out.
Which? sent a pre-action letter to JJB on 7 February, once the House of Lords had upheld the OFT’s original decision against the company. But DLA Piper competition partner Martin Rees says he is yet to be instructed on the matter because JJB is yet to receive a correspondence from Which?
Which? hopes to win £20 for every consumer who bought one of the replica shirts in question, and on its website has appealed for people to contact it or Clydes.
Senior competition associate Mark Warrington is leading the team at Clydes preparing the action.
Clydes had previously placed ads in Manchester local papers urging people who thought they might have been affected to contact them (as first reported in The Lawyer, 15 January).