A distributor has won the right to view confidential correspondence from its competitors after claiming they colluded together to prevent it entering the lucrative agricultural products market.
The case involved a company that wanted to distribute crop protection products such as herbicides and insecticides. The sector was already dominated by five other distributors who accounted for up to 90% of the total UK market.
The distributor reached an agreement with a major supplier to distribute its products but within a few days the supplier withdrew from the deal.
The distributor claimed the decision to withdraw was due to pressure from some or all of the other distributors who had colluded together to exclude a new competitor.
It claimed the existing distributors were breaching competition law and asked the court to order the supplier to disclose all its correspondence with them about the issue.
The court granted the application. It held that material put forward by the distributor enabled the court to infer a case of potentially anti-competitive collusion. Without the information sought, that case could not progress.
The material could not be obtained from any other source and any disclosure could be kept confidential.
The defendant had admitted bowing to the distributors’ pressure; the issue was whether they had acted in concert in bringing that pressure.
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Distributor wins right to view confidential letters from rivals
ZANTRA LTD v BASF PLC (2016)
Ch D (Barling J) 24/11/2016