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Wholesaler’s Competition Complaint Founders on Inadequately Pleaded Case

The first rule of litigation is to plead your case in a sufficiently detailed, intelligible and logical manner, a task for which specialist lawyers undergo years of training. The fate of a case before the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) underlined the consequences of failing to meet that basic requirement.

A food and drink wholesaler lodged a claim against one of its suppliers, asserting that it had lost substantial profits due to the latter’s abuse of its dominant position in the relevant market, contrary to Section 18 of the Competition Act 1998. It sought more than £11.6 million in damages, plus exemplary damages and interest.

The supplier, however, complained that the allegations pleaded by the wholesaler in its particulars of claim were so vague and unclear that it was impossible to discern the specific conduct complained of, how it was said to have infringed competition law or how any such alleged infringement had caused loss to the wholesaler.

In striking out the entirety of the wholesaler’s claim, the CAT noted that the critical importance of properly particularising competition law claims had been repeatedly emphasised in other cases. There were manifest and serious deficiencies in the way the claim had been advanced and no attempt had been made to amend the particulars of the claim so as to set out a coherent or intelligible case.

On the basis of the wholesaler’s pleaded case, there was no reasonable basis for its claim nor any real prospect that it would succeed. If the wholesaler did in fact have a case that merited an answer, it had not been made either to the supplier or the CAT.

Published in
30 September 2021
Last Updated
8 May 2022