In November 2013, Helsinki District Court handed down 41 decisions in the so-called asphalt cartel damages case. In this landmark case, the court awarded 39 municipalities over 37 million euros in damages for losses suffered due to a nation-wide cartel in the Finnish asphalt market during the years 1994-2002. The court approved the main part of the claims of the municipalities, including the claim on interest, which increased the capital amount of the damages considerably, and compensation for legal costs.
The claim of the Finnish state, which had sought some 57 million euros in damages was rejected in its entirety. The court found that part of the state machinery had itself been involved in the cartel and the state was considered to have been aware of the cartel during the entire period for which it sought damages. Also the damages claim of one municipality was rejected in its entirety, since that claimant was not able to show that it had paid an overcharge due to the cartel.
According to the court, the overcharge paid by the claimants corresponded in most cases to approximately 15 per cent, and in some cases to approximately 20 per cent of the contract price. The question about the size of the overcharge was subject to extensive debate during the court proceedings where the parties relied on both written economic expert analyses and oral testimonies.
The decisions of the court are, in general, fairly accommodating for the claimants. The court resolved many of the open legal questions, e.g. as regards limitation periods, in favor of the claimants. Notably, for the first time in a damages case, the court also applied directly the EU doctrine on liability of successor undertakings in respect of such defendants who had carried on the economic operations of certain dissolved undertakings involved in the cartel. No direct support for the application of the doctrine in a damages case can be found in national law.
Appeals have been launched against a number of the decisions. Such appeals are currently pending with the Helsinki Court of Appeals.