In the first action of its kind, a UK court will hear a case claiming damages for breaches of EC competition law
The case of Yeheskel Arkin v Borchard Lines Ltd & ors has been set down for up to seven weeks at the Commercial Court before Mr Justice Colman, the judge who presided over the courtroom battle between Unilever and Merrill Lynch Investment Managers. Susan Singleton, name partner of niche competition and intellectual property firm Singletons, is acting for the claimant. She said: "Actions of this kind are likely to be a growing trend because of an increase in competition investigations at EU and UK level, and because an adverse competition decision imposing fines does not help a complainant financially. Fines may be nice for the EC or OFT, but then there's no money for [the claimant]." When Singleton and her counsel, Nicholas Green QC of Brick Court Chambers, first undertook the case for Yeheskel Arkin in 1996 it was funded by legal aid, but it was switched to a CFA when it was introduced in July 1998. Arkin was a major shareholder and former director of shipping line BCL, which has collapsed. Arkin alleges that the defendants, an array of UK and foreign registered shipping lines, tried to force BCL out of the market by imposing anticompetitive conditions that breached articles 85 and 86 (now articles 81 and 82) of the EC Competition Treaty. These conditions comprise predatory pricing and "hostile circularisation" of customers involved in container transport trade between Israel and the north west of Europe, including the UK. A separate case, set down for October, involves the same allegations but relates to the so-called "ancillary market", the trade route between Israel and South Africa. All this is alleged to have been carried out through a shipping line named Zim, which has been brought into the action by one of the defendants. Originally, Arkin only sued cartel members in the UK rather than abroad. Limiting the claim in this way is cheaper and easier to manage. However, several other shipping lines have been added to the action. Steven Gee QC of Stone Chambers and Hugh Mercer of Essex Court Chambers, instructed by Davies Arnold Cooper, are acting for the second, third and fourth defendants. Peter Irvin and Sarah Lee, both of Brick Court Chambers, have been instructed by Constant & Constant for the first defendant, Borchard Lines. Fergus Randolph of Brick Court has been instructed by Berwin Leighton Paisner for Zim.