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OLG Stuttgart: Damages due to truck cartel

November 2019 - Antitrust & Competition. Legal Developments by MTR Rechtsanwalte.

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The OLG Stuttgart, Stuttgart’s Higher Regional Court, has ruled in connection with what has become known as the “truck cartel” that an aggrieved buyer is in principle entitled to claim damages from Daimler AG (Az.: 2 U 101/18).

From 1997 to 2011, the truck manufacturers Daimler, MAN, Volvo/Renault, DAF, and Iveco entered into illegal price-fixing arrangements. In 2011, this so-called “truck cartel” was uncovered. We at the commercial law firm MTR Rechtsanwälte can report that a fine running into billions of euros was subsequently imposed by the European Commission against the manufacturers in 2016.

The European Commission’s decision serves as proof that antitrust law has been violated and thus paves the way for damages claims brought by aggrieved truck buyers. In a judgment from April 4, 2019, the OLG Stuttgart ruled in appeal proceedings that a buyer was entitled to damages from Daimler AG. The plaintiff had purchased a dozen Daimler trucks between 1998 and 2011, and later asserted a claim for damages due to inflated prices resulting from the cartel arrangements.

The OLG Stuttgart confirmed that the antitrust violation was beyond dispute, having been definitively established by the European Commission’s decision from July 19, 2016. Moreover, since the plaintiff’s truck purchases, with one exception, coincided with the period of the illegal price-fixing arrangements, the OLG concluded that it was likely the plaintiff had in fact suffered harm as a result.

According to the established case-law of the Bundesgerichtshof, Germany’s Federal Supreme Court, the purpose of establishing a cartel is to increase the profits of the companies involved. As such, the OLG Stuttgart noted that it was highly likely the cartel was formed and maintained as a means of achieving higher market prices. It went on to state, therefore, that it was equally likely that those who purchased trucks affected by the price-fixing arrangements suffered harm. While the objections submitted by Daimler were deemed by the OLG Stuttgart to be insufficient, the Court did grant leave to appeal.

Buyers harmed by the truck cartel can assert damages claims against the members of the cartel. Following the European Commission’s decision, there is nothing standing in the way of bringing a claim for damages. It is nonetheless crucial to consider the prescription of claims and its implications for individual cases. Lawyers with experience in the field of antitrust law can offer advice.

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