Hong Kong: “it takes two to collude” – Competition Tribunal rejects first private competition action

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The Competition Tribunal has delivered its judgment in the first private competition action in Hong Kong SAR.

By rejecting the claims of an alleged cartel in the supply of diesel, this judgment cements the importance of claims based on clear factual evidence and avoids private parties making logical leaps through implausible inferences.

It also delivers a clear message that parallel pricing, on its own, is a sign of normal competitive behaviour.

In a strongly worded judgment (see here), the Tribunal rejected allegations that Shell Hong Kong and Taching Petroleum had engaged in a 6-year price fixing arrangement in the supply of diesel. This case stems from a contractual claim by Taching and Shell against Meyer for outstanding debts of unpaid bills of industrial diesel sold to Meyer. Meyer’s defence to the debt claim was to allege that Taching and Shell colluded to fix prices, and raised illegality as a defence to avoid the unpaid bills. The High Court transferred this aspect of the claim to the Competition Tribunal in May 2018, with the 10 day trial taking place earlier this year.