Damages claims in the Spanish sugar cartel

Market conditions in the sugar industry are strongly affected by protectionist regulatory measures and interventions, leaving narrow room for business competition. Moreover, competition authorities worldwide have investigated and successfully prosecuted anticompetitive actions by sugar producers and refiners in this market. As an example of collusive behaviour in the sugar industry, this article looks at the Spanish sugar cartel uncovered and sanctioned by the Spanish competition authority. It then turns into the subsequent private enforcement actions that concluded successfully last year with a Euro 5 million award in damages by the Supreme Court. Several lessons can be extracted from the Supreme Court’s decisions that will have an impact on future private claims for damages arising from competition law violations in Spain. They clarify the relevance and legal force of public enforcement decisions for private enforcement, how damages’ calculations should be done, and how expert forensic opinions on the matter should be assessed by the courts and, finally, they rule on the availability of the passing-on defence. In all, the Spanish Supreme Court dicta from its decisions in the sugar cartel case may well open the gateway for new private claims in the future.
Reference :

Journal of Antitrust Enforcement, 2015, 3, 205–225