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EU and Competition Law

A number of members of 20 Essex Street Chambers specialise in competition law (EU and UK) and the substantive law of the EU.  Virtually all members deal with aspects of EU law regularly in their practice, including in particular Brussels and Rome regulation issues.  A number have experience of working in the European Court of Justice, at the European Commission and for UK government regulatory authorities.

Our members appear regularly before domestic courts and tribunals at all levels to argue questions of EU and competition law. Our members advise and represent Community institutions, Member States, corporations, public authorities and private individuals.  Advice and the conduct of litigation both for, and against, the Competition and Markets Authority (formerly the Office of Fair Trading) and other regulatory bodies (e.g. Ofgem) also form a significant part of our work.

Competition law

EU and UK competition law practice areas include:

  • Antitrust (Article 101 TFEU/Chapter I Competition Act 1998 and Article 102 TFEU/Chapter 2 Competition Act 1998)
  • Mergers and concentrations
  • Market investigations
  • Public undertakings
  • State aid
  • Private follow-on actions for damages in the High Court (Commercial Court and Chancery Division) or the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT)
  • Stand-alone actions in the High Court for damages and injunctions
  • Administrative proceedings before regulators, including in particular the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the European Commission
  • Judicial review of regulatory decisions in the Administrative Court
  • Applications for appeal or review to the Competition Appeal Tribunal against decisions of the CMA and sectoral regulators
  • Appeals to the General Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union against decisions by the European Commission

As well as specialist expertise in competition law, our members also have particular expertise in commercial litigation, which is increasingly coming to the fore in the fast developing area of private damages actions in the High Court and the CAT, and related jurisdictional disputes.

Members appear in proceedings to challenge regulatory infringement findings in the CAT and the EU courts (eg recently Tesco Stores Ltd v OFT [2012] CAT 31 and BMI Healthcare v Competition Commission [2013] CAT 24).  They have also been retained in a number of the current and recent high profile follow-on and stand-alone damages claims in the Chancery Division, Commercial Court and the CAT (eg Arcadia and others v Visa International (interchange fees), National Grid v ABB (gas insulated switchgear), Emerald Supplies v BA (air cargo), W.H. Newson Holding Limited v IMI plc (copper fittings), Pinewood v Reckitt Benckiser (Gaviscon), Carbon Strips and Devenish Nutrition v Sanofi-Aventis (vitamins)).  A number of members of chambers have been involved in recent litigation, in the Patents Court and in arbitration, relating to the licensing on FRAND terms of standard essential patents in the mobile phone sector (including Nokia and HTC v IPCom). 

Much of 20 Essex Street Chambers’ competition work arises in confidential commercial arbitrations. Recent arbitrations have concerned, for example: the right to use essential port and stevedoring facilities for the shipment of petroleum products (both exclusionary and pricing abuses of dominance arising); the pricing of bunker fuels; agreements said to restrict competition by restricting access to oil and gas destined for import into the EU; long term international supply contracts in the chemical sector.  In addition members have been involved in a confidential Early Neutral Evaluation in the Commercial Court arising out of State aid in the defence sector.

Members’ advisory work is diverse. Recent examples include: consideration of the legality of a teaming agreement in the defence sector; the provision of documents to the EU Commission and making of leniency applications by a major UK bank during the LIBOR investigation.

EU law

Specific EU law practice areas include:

  • Internal market / free movement
  • Commercial agency
  • Public procurement
  • Intellectual property
  • Media and Broadcasting
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Taxation, VAT and customs matters
  • Utilities
  • Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Biosciences
  • Financial Services
  • Transport
  • Sanctions

Examples of work in these areas include: In free movement, litigation relating to the compatibility of legislation on export of Jersey Royal potatoes with EU law.  In the field of commercial agency, a large dispute relating to the sale and distribution of cosmetics; an agency between a Korean shipyard and a Greek shipbroker.  In public procurement, a challenge under the Public Contracts Regulations to an NHS Trust tender process; advice on defence procurement and in relation to competitive tenders for ferry services.  In taxation, VAT and customs, a number of members acted for HMRC in major VAT carousel fraud litigation.  In agriculture, advice and litigation relating to the EU sugar regime and on other CAP regimes.  In intellectual property, cases concerning the validity and infringement of Community trade marks and disputes arising out of brand and trade mark licensing agreements across various Member States.  In transport, advising airlines on the effects of the ECJ ruling in Sturgeon relating to the Denied Boarding Regulations.

An area of particular current interest is Sanctions.  A number of members of chambers have been involved in litigation and advice relating to the EU sanctions regimes relating to Iraq, Iran, Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, North Korea, Russia and Syria as well as Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  In this area, chambers can also bring to bear its expertise in public international law and international commercial litigation.

Finally, European private international law is now a major theme in EU law.  Chambers has a leading position in this field; members of chambers have appeared in a number of leading cases on the Brussels and Rome Regulations and are authors of leading textbooks in the field.  Further detail can be found on the Private International Law page.


Members practising within this area: