Two judgements on procedural issues of costs and interest have been handed
down by the Competition Appeal Tribunal (the "CAT") in relation to
the roofing price fixing cases against Richard W Price Ltd and Apex Asphalt
and Paving Co Ltd.
Both companies were found guilty of breaking UK competition law by the Office
of Fair Trading (the "OFT"), a charge which was upheld by the CAT
when appealed by the undertakings. The OFT wanted compensation for its costs
in relation to the appeal which was disputed by the unsuccessful party Apex
Asphalt. The CAT has now ruled that Apex should not be held liable for the
trial costs of the watchdog, due to certain mitigation circumstances. The ability
of the undertaking to pay the penalty and its own court costs should be factored
in. It was felt that a too stringent approach might discourage smaller businesses
from appealing decisions. The tribunal did however reserve the right to order
such cost payments in the future.
In the Richard W Price judgement the CAT was asked to determine how interest
on the fine should be assessed. The OFT had demanded interest at base rate
plus 1 per cent. This calculation method was appealed by the company. In sustaining
the regulator's claim the CAT clarified that the aim of the interest rules
is to stop a fined undertaking from taking advantage of the appeal system by
putting off payment.