Volume 28 (2017) / Issue 6
This article discusses whether cartel damages claims are arbitrable under EU law. Although it is settled that most types of competition disputes are arbitrable in principle, the Opinion of the Advocate General and the ruling of the Court of Justice in Cartel Damage Claims (CDC) Hydrogen Peroxide SA v. Akzo Nobel NV (CDC) raise the question as to whether cartel damages claims fall within arbitration clauses entered into at a time when the claimant did not have knowledge of the cartel. This article argues that the CDC case does not compel national courts to interpret the scope of arbitration clauses as excluding cartel damages claims. The outcome of each case will depend on the law applicable to the arbitration agreement and the precise words in the agreement itself and it is not a matter governed by EU law. It cannot be excluded that the principle of effectiveness of EU law may require national courts to disapply arbitration agreements on the facts of a particular case but the threshold is a high one. It would not be sufficient for the claimant to persuade the court that it would have been more advantageous for him to make its claim in court or that the claimant was not aware of the cartel at the time of entering into the arbitration agreement. The claimant must prove that to arbitrate the claim would make the exercise of rights conferred by EU law impossible or excessively difficult. Given that arbitral tribunals are well equipped to deal with a wide range of disputes, including tortious claims and claims involving issues of a technical or economic nature, it is difficult to conceive of circumstances in which this threshold may be met.
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