14 Jun 2012

14-15 June 2012, University of East Anglia, Norwich

The Office of Fair Trading has uncovered high-profile cases including sales of replica football kits, airline price-fixing, and bid-rigging in the construction industry – resulting in multi-million pound fines for companies involved. This two-day event focussed on how consumers, who pay over the odds as a result of such practices, can successfully claim compensation.

The conference saw an international line up of economic, law, and political experts talking about their research and experience. Speakers included John Holmes from Which? magazine and Iain Mansfield, assistant director of competition policy at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Dr Andreas Stephan, from the Centre for Competition Policy at UEA, said: "There are a number of obstacles for consumers claiming compensation. In particular, the financial loss is typically shared between a large number of consumers. But while individual losses might be small, the cumulative loss to the economy is potentially enormous.

"The problem in the UK is that we don't allow for collective legal actions on an ‘opt-out' basis.

"When the consumer group Which? attempted to sue for compensation over replica football kits it was unsuccessful because of the cost of identifying affected victims and getting them to sign up.

"In the US however, lawyers are able to sue on behalf of a group of consumers without each consumer needing to specifically ‘opt in' to the legal action.

"The UK government is currently consulting on such a system, which would make it much easier to sue companies for anti-competitive practices."

Iain Mansfield (BIS) led a panel discussion on the government's consultation at the event.

Conference programme

Conference Speakers & Abstracts

Lee McGowan, Queen's University, Belfast: "Americanisation of Cartel Provisions in the UK and EU Regimes? Exploring Criminalisation and Leniency" 

Amelia Fletcher, OFT: "The right mix of sticks and carrots: the OFT's review of its penalties and leniency policies"

Angela Wigger, Radboud University, The Netherlands: "Neoliberalism Consolidated: The Example of Private Enforcement in EU Competition Regulation"

Robert Feinberg, American University, USA: "State Antitrust Enforcement in the U.S. and Implications for Business Entry and Relocation"

Cento Veljanovski, Case Associates: "Deterrence Recidivism and European Cartel Fines"

David Ulph, University of St Andrews, Scotland: "The Welfare Effects of Legal Uncertainty and its Implications for Enforcement Procedures"

Christine Parker, Monash University, Australia: "The Futility of Getting Tough on Cartels?"

Maarten Pieter Schinkel, Amsterdam Business School: "State-aided Price Coordination in Dutch Mortgage Banking"

Angus MacCulloch & Bruce Wardhaugh, Lancaster University: "The Baby and the Bathwater: The Relationship between Private Enforcement, Criminal Penalties, and Leniency Policy"

Parallel Session Speakers:

Kai Huschelrath, ZEW: "The Impact of Cartelization on Pricing Dynamics - Evidence from the German Cement Industry"

Niamh Dunne, University of Cambridge: "Discounting Fines to Account for Regulation: A Critical Assessment of Commission Practice"

Bruce Wardhaugh, University of Newcastle: "Cartel Control, Public and Private Sanctions: Lessons Europe Can Learn from the American Experience"

Peter Ormosi, CCP & Norwich Business School: "Towards the unbiased assessment of law enforcement: deterrence, detection and other niceties"

Morten Hviid, CCP: "Regulation vs. Self-help: A natural experiment"

Francisco Marco, Center for European Studies/IE Law School: "Diminishing Enforcement: Negative Effects for Deterrence of Mistaken Settlements and Misguided Competition Promotion and Advocacy"