Grim day for DLA as Court of Appeal dismisses JJB and Littlewoods cases

DLA Piper and Brick Court Chambers today lost two landmark cases in the Court of Appeal after two long-running cases of price-fixing were dismissed, upholding earlier decisions by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The court’s decisions are a blow to DLA clients JJB Sports and Littlewoods and also to Argos, which was advised by Burges Salmon. All three companies had been fighting OFT charges of cartel activity for the past three years.

Lords Justice Chadwick, Wall and Lloyd handed down judgment on both the appeal lodged by JJB Sports and a separate appeal lodged by Littlewoods and Argos. In both cases, the appeals had been filed after the OFT had levied heavy fines for price-fixing.

JJB Sports was initially fined £8.37m by the OFT in 2003 for colluding with other companies, such as Umbro and Manchester United, to fix the price of football shirts.

JJB called in its longstanding counsel, competition partner Martin Rees at DLA Piper, who then instructed Mark Hoskins at Brick Court Chambers.

Hoskins, under Mark Brealey QC, also represented Argos in a separate appeal against fixing the prices of Hasbro toys with Littlewoods. Burges Salmon competition partner Andrij Jurkiw instructed Brealey and Hoskins.The OFT fined the two catalogue-based stores a total of £22.6m in 2003.

Brick Court Chambers’ Nicholas Green QC and Marie Demetriou represented Littlewoods, also a DLA Piper client.

For the OFT, Fountain Court’s Brian Doctor and Monckton Chambers’ Kassie Smith appeared in the Littlewoods and Argos appeal, whilst Stephen Morris QC of 20 Essex Street led for the regulator in the JBB Sports appeal.

In both cases, the Competition Appeal Tribunal in 2005 reduced the fines levvied but upheld the OFT’s general decisions.