Competition and Markets Authority accepts commitments from Showmen’s Guild

The CMA announced yesterday that it has accepted commitments by the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, the main association for travelling showmen who earn their living at funfairs. The announcement closes, without the imposition of any penalty, an investigation by the CMA into the Guild’s rules that led to the issue of a Statement of Objections in December 2016 (which indicated that the CMA was at that stage minded to impose penalties).  The commitments offered, and the reasons why the CMA accepted them, are set out here: in essence, the CMA agreed that its concerns were sufficiently addressed by amendments to the Guild’s rules that: (a) made it easier for new members to join the Guild; (b) removed a number of restrictions on the participation of non-members at fairs; and (c) changed the Guild’s system of “established rights” held by its members to grounds at fairs so as to make transfer of such rights easier, and for landowners to make improvements to fairs on their land.  The rule changes now have to be approved by the Guild’s members.

The Guild was represented during the CMA inquiry by George Peretz QC, Michael Armitage and Imogen Proud.

ECJ rules “Bridge is not a sport” – VAT success for UK, represented by Raymond Hill

The European Court of Justice has decided this morning that contract bridge is not a sport. Therefore, entry fees to bridge tournaments are not exempt from VAT. Although bridge involves intellectual effort and skill, the Court held that the term “sport” referred to an activity characterised by a “not negligible” physical element. The Court recognised that bridge required logic, memory and lateral thinking and benefitted the mental and physical health of players. But the Court disagreed with Advocate General Szpunar that the health benefits of playing bridge indicated that bridge should fall within the VAT exemption for sports.

Raymond Hill represented the United Kingdom before the European Court in successfully arguing that bridge was not a sport.


Brendan McGurk successfully defends Italian Rugby’s Marco Fuser

Brendan McGurk has successfully defended Italy and Benetton Lock, Marco Fuser, following his citing for an alleged bite on Francois Louw during the European Champions Cup clash between Bath and Benetton on 14 October 2017. Louw was also cited in the same incident for making contact with Fuser’s eye. Following a hearing before the EPCR Disciplinary Panel, the case brought against Fuser was dismissed.

Thomas Sebastian appointed as a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics

Thomas Sebastian has been appointed a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics for the period 2017 to 2020.  Thomas will contribute to postgraduate teaching in the fields of WTO law and international investment law (alongside his full time practice in these areas).

He said “I am delighted to have this opportunity and look forward to engaging with colleagues in the Law Department and the LSE’s diverse postgraduate community in the years ahead.

Kassie Smith QC – GCR Live – 6th October 2017

Speaking at GCR Live London, Kassie Smith QC of Monckton Chambers said there was a need for certainty about whether English judgments would still be enforceable in the rest of Europe once Brussels’ “Recast” rules, which ensure judgments between EU members states are recognised and enforced, fall away after Brexit. To read the full reportage by Hettie O’Brien, click here.

Legal 500 UK Bar 2017: Monckton recognised as top tier for Competition, Telecoms, Procurement and VAT

In the recently launched  The Legal 500 UK Bar 2017  44 individual barristers from Monckton Chambers are listed across18 practice areas with many recommended in multiple categories.

Monckton Chambers has been recommended as a TOP-TIER set in the following practice areas:

  • Competition
  • Telecoms (regulatory)
  • Public procurement
  • Tax – VAT

The Set has also been ranked in a further 6 areas:

  • Administrative and public law (including local government)
  • Civil liberties and human rights (including actions against the police)
  • Environment
  • European Law
  • IT and telecoms – data protection
  • Sport

Individual members were also recognised as “Leading Individuals” in:

  • Aviation
  • Construction
  • Education
  • Immigration (including business immigration)
  • International arbitration: counsel
  • Professional negligence
  • Public international law
  • Social housing

The annual legal directory further described the Set as follows:

Monckton Chambers has ‘breadth and depth across all levels from silks to junior barristers’. It has expertise across the public law and regulatory spectrum, but is singled out as ‘the place to go to for EU law and competition advice’, and clients praise chambers’ ability to communicate insights surrounding these ever-changing areas: for example, ‘the Brexit blog is excellent and showcases the knowledge and commercial awareness of the set’. On the support side, ‘the front of house is personal and friendly, yet professional’, and the clerks are ‘very, very attentive’. Senior clerk David Hockney is ‘first class’ and ‘always responsive’, and first junior John Keegan is ‘approachable and very easy to deal with’ – ‘nothing is too much trouble’.

Monckton in shortlist for The British Legal Awards 2017, Chambers of the Year

Legal Week has announced the shortlist for The British Legal Awards 2017, a showcase for the achievements of one of the country’s most successful sectors and Monckton Chambers is one of eight sets nominated for Chambers of the Year. The 29 category winners will be selected by an independent judging panel which includes senior business lawyers from major banks and corporates, as well as former private practice leaders and the awards will be presented at a ceremony in London on Thursday 30 November 2017.

For the full list of this year’s finalists, click here.

CAT upholds CMA’s Infringement Decision in Galvanised Steel Tanks Information Exchange

The Competition Appeal Tribunal has dismissed an appeal by Balmoral Tanks against the CMA’s decision finding that Balmoral and its competitors infringed competition law by exchanging commercially sensitive information with respect to galvanised steel tanks.  The CMA found that an information exchange at a single meeting in July 2012 sufficed to establish the infringement.

The CMA had covertly video recorded the meeting as part of its criminal investigation into a seven year cartel between four suppliers of galvanised steel tanks. The CMA accepted that Balmoral was not part of that cartel but found that it had been guilty of a separate object infringement.

In its appeal, Balmoral argued that it attended the July 2012 meeting with the legitimate purpose of informing its competitors that it did not want to be involved in the cartel. It argued that it could not be criticised merely for having received inducements to join the cartel.  It also argued that a single meeting did not suffice to establish the infringement, that no sensitive information was exchanged at that meeting and that no fine should have been imposed given Balmoral’s positive impact on the market.

The Tribunal has fully upheld the CMA’s decision. In particular, it accepts the CMA’s findings that Balmoral was actively involved in an unlawful information exchange of sensitive information which reduced uncertainty on the market. The Tribunal confirms that, in the context of this market, the exchange of pricing information at a single meeting was unlawful.  The judgment carries out a detailed review of the CMA’s findings regarding the nature of the information exchanged between the parties and why that exchange constituted a “by object” restriction of competition.

The Tribunal stated that “It is because executives meeting together for a legitimate industry purpose must be firmly discouraged from giving into any temptation they may face to slip into illegitimate discussion of prices that the case law defines the concept of concerted practice in price exchanges so broadly.”

The Tribunal fully upheld the fine of £130,000 imposed on Balmoral, dismissing arguments that Balmoral should not have been fined having regard to the CMA’s approach to the cartelists, and that any fine imposed should have been lower.

The judgment can be found here.

Rob Williams and James Bourke acted for the CMA.

High Court reduces the temporal scope of the Air Cargo damages claims

In the latest in a series of interim judgments in the Air Cargo cartel damages claims, which are being brought in the Chancery Division by several groups of claimants against British Airways plc, the High Court (Rose J) has held that Article 101 TFEU does not permit claims for damages to be brought in relation to air transport routes between the EU and third countries during the period before 1 May 2004. The judgment contains a detailed analysis of the temporal scope of the competition provisions in the Treaty and of the “Modernisation” Regulation (Reg. 1/2003), as well as the effect of the transitional regime in Articles 107 and 108 TFEU in the specific context of the air transport sector.

To read the judgment please click here.

Philip Moser QC, Ben Rayment and Conor McCarthy acted for the Emerald, Hyundai, Kodak and Allston Claimants.

Jon Turner QC and Michael Armitage acted for BA.

Daniel Beard QC and Thomas Sebastian acted for the Part 20 Airlines.