Nabarro seals Appeal Court victory in Coal Authority competition case

Nabarro has secured a Court of Appeal judgment dismissing claims that the Coal Authority acted in an anticompetitive manner.

The authority turned down Abbey Mine for a licence at the Margam site in South Wales, choosing instead to favour steel producer Corus. Once operational, the site will supply virtually all the coking grade coal mined underground in the UK.

Abbey Mine brought proceedings to challenge the decision, alleging procedural unfairness. At first instance, Mrs Justice Dobbs rejected the claim, as did the Court of Appeal.

The Appeal Court, led by Lord Justice Laws, set down guidance as to what constitutes a fair procedure in competitive licensing cases.

In a competition case such as this, fairness imposes two broad requirements. First, an applicant for a licence must be told the authority’s concerns about the case presented to it by the candidate. Second, each applicant must be treated like every other.

“There should, to use the hackneyed phrase, be a level playing field,” held Laws LJ. “The applicant is entitled to be told of the decision-maker’s concerns about his own case, but not the details of his rival’s case”.

Nabarro, led by competition partner Cyrus Mehta and commercial litigation partner Jonathan Warne, instructed Christopher Vajda QC of Monckton Chambers.

Cardiff-based?sole-practitioner John Morris instructed Robert Griffiths QC of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square for Abbey Mine.