On 15 July 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the “Court“) rendered a judgment that clarifies which national courts within an EU Member State have jurisdiction over actions for cartel damages. Questions about the interpretation of Article 7(2) of the Recast Brussels Regulation arose in Spanish proceedings between RHS, an undertaking domiciled in Spain, on the one part, and the Volvo Group on the other, concerning payment of damages for its involvement in the truck cartel. Article 7(2) of the Recast Brussels Regulation confers jurisdiction on the court for the place where the damage occurred.
RHS had purchased trucks in Cordoba, Spain, and also has its registered office there but it brought its action before the court of Madrid. The Volvo Group consequently contended that the Spanish courts did not have international jurisdiction since the cartel was concluded in other Member States of the EU and the ‘place where the harmful event occurred or may occur’ referred to in Article 7(2) is the place where the truck cartel was concluded, and not where the applicant in the main proceedings is domiciled.
The Spanish court therefore asked the CJEU, in essence, whether Article 7(2) must be interpreted as meaning that this provision constitutes a rule which strictly concerns international jurisdiction or whether it is a dual or combined rule which also operates as a rule on local territorial jurisdiction, without any need to refer to domestic regulation.
Briefly put, the Court held:
- Article 7(2) directly and immediately confers both international and territorial jurisdiction on the courts for the place where the damage occurred and therefore there is in principle no need to refer to national rules determining the jurisdiction of courts;
- However, there is one exception: the delimitation of the court’s jurisdiction within which the place where the damage occurred is situated, is as a rule a matter for the organisational competence of the Member State to which that court belongs, and jurisdiction may be centralised before a single specialised court. In other words, EU Member States are allowed to designate centralised courts to deal with cartel damages cases;
- In the absence of such a specialised court, there are two options: (1) where the injured party purchased goods affected by the cartel exclusively within one EU Member State within the affected market, the courts of that Member State have jurisdiction, or (2) where the injured party has made purchases in several places, each undertaking that has been harmed may bring a follow-on action before the court where it has its registered office.