Dentons inflicts first infringement defeat on OFT

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) today suffered its first ever infringement decision defeat at the hands of Denton Wilde Sapte.

The firm won the landmark ruling from the Competition Appeal Tribunal over the sale of interactive betting rights. Dentons advised the Racecourse Association (RCA) and the owners of 34 racecourses in the UK.

In May 2001, 49 UK racecourses signed a £307m deal that gave their interactive betting rights to Attheraces, a website dedicated to horse race betting. In April 2004 the OFT issued an infringement decision accusing the racecourses of acting anti-competitively through the collective sale.

During the appeal the OFT defended its infringement decision by claiming the price of the interactive betting rights would have been lower if racecourses sold them individually or in smaller groups. This was rejected by the CAT, which referred to the OFT’s case as “the world that never was” and “a triumph of theory over commercial reality”.

Competiton partner Sam Szlezinger led the Dentons team with Christopher Vajda QC of serving as counsel for the RCA at the tribunal.