UK: UK High Court Confirms Jurisdiction Over International Cartels

Last Updated: 11 June 2003

Article by Davina Garrod, Scott S. Megregian, Ian Rose and Anthony Rosen

On 6 May 2003, the UK High Court issued a decision establishing that UK courts will expansively interpret their jurisdiction over international cartel cases. This decision involves a private damages claim arising out of the European Commission’s vitamins cartel case (in November 2001 the Commission fined major vitamins producers €855 million for operating price-fixing cartels in violation of Article 81 of the EC Treaty).

The case involves two groups of proceedings. One action was initiated by Provimi Limited and the other by two companies in the Trouw group. In each case, the claimants sought to recover damages for losses incurred as a result of the participation of Hoffman-La Roche (Roche) and Aventis in the vitamins cartel. Provimi Ltd v. Aventis Roche et. al. and Trouw et. al. v. Aventis and Roche et. al.

Roche and Aventis applied to strike or set aside the claims arguing that, among other things, the UK courts did not have jurisdiction over the non-UK defendants. The High Court denied the application establishing important principles which will determine UK courts’ jurisdiction over cartel cases, as follows:

  • The UK courts have jurisdiction over claims made by a UK company against foreign cartel members.
  • A non-UK company can also bring a claim in the UK courts against a foreign defendant where a UK affiliate of the defendant was also involved in the cartel.
  • The High Court rejected the defendants’ efforts to strike the claims based on forum selection clauses in their sales contracts.

The High Court established that a UK company can sue a non-UK company for damages resulting from competition law infringements. To obtain jurisdiction, the claimant must state that a UK affiliate "implemented" and "gave effect" to the cartel in England and the claims against the UK and non-UK defendants were "closely connected." The High Court stated that each of the defendant groups (Roche and Aventis) formed a single economic unit for competition law purposes. Consequently, an agreement entered into by a non-UK group company will be treated as involving the UK group company if the UK company implements the agreement. As the cartel agreement was implemented in the United Kingdom by UK subsidiaries of Roche and Aventis and the claims were based on the Commission’s infringement decision in the vitamins case, the High Court held that the cartel was implemented in the United Kingdom, and the claims were closely connected. The High Court rejected the defendants’ arguments that the UK subsidiaries should be treated as separate legal entities for the purposes of competition law from their non-UK parents/affiliates and not subject to being joined in the UK case.

The High Court did not limit the scope of its jurisdiction to UK claimants. The High Court also held that non-UK claimants could join UK proceedings to recover damages against foreign companies for cartel infringements. Here again, jurisdiction was found to lie where a UK affiliate of the foreign defendant was involved in implementing the cartel. The ability to join "foreign-to-foreign" claims to UK proceedings will enable claimants to consolidate their actions and bring a consolidated damages claim against all groups of companies preventing the need to commence actions in multiple jurisdictions. The court also recognised that this result was important to avoiding inconsistent outcomes in related cases.

The case also establishes important limitations on the use of forum selection clauses as a procedural defence to UK jurisdiction. Roche and Aventis sought to rely on the forum selection clauses in their contracts with the claimants to deny the High Court jurisdiction to hear the damages claims. These clauses purported to require that claims "arising out of" the respective sales contracts be heard in specified jurisdictions: Switzerland, Germany and France. The High Court explained that infringements of competition law constituted a "breach of statutory duty." As such, the court found that any forum selection clause must expressly cover such claims to be enforceable. The High Court held that the forum selection clauses were of no recourse to the defendants as they did not specifically cover damages claims for infringements of competition law. In the future, arbitration/forum selection clauses will have to be drafted to include competition law damages claims in order to be effective so as to deny a foreign court/seat of arbitration jurisdiction.

The High Court’s judgment clearly establishes its willingness and ability to expansively exert its jurisdiction in competition law damages cases. This expansive application of UK jurisdiction will have important implications under the Enterprise Act 2002, which is due to come into force at the end of June 2003 (see On the Subject…, "New UK Competition Law," published in April 2002). Specifically, the Enterprise Act grants expanded powers to the UK Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT). The CAT is a specialist panel that will be empowered to award damages to competition law claimants where a prior infringement decision has been made by the Commission or the Office of Fair Trading. This is expected to significantly improve the ability of customers to claim damages for competition law violations.

The Roche/Aventis judgments will have important ramifications for cartel members and potential claimants. Under the High Court’s ruling, non-UK and UK victims of international cartels can sue UK and other companies based worldwide in the English courts for damages suffered throughout Europe. This likely will reduce the need for filing multiple cases as entire group damages will now be recoverable in a single action. Moreover, the English courts’ openness to competition law actions, together with CAT’s new powers to award damages, should result in a significant increase in competition litigation in the United Kingdom. Potential defendants and claimants should be aware that the United Kingdom is well placed to become the primary European forum for damages claims for cartels and other competition law infringements.

The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.