Frequently asked questions
- What is the role of the Tribunal?
The Competition Appeal Tribunal or, as it is sometimes known, the “CAT”, is an independent judicial body established to hear appeals against certain decisions of the UK competition and sectoral regulatory authorities made under the Competition Act 1998, the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Communications Act 2003. In broad terms, the authorities whose decisions may be appealed to the Tribunal are:
- the Office of Fair Trading
- the Competition Commission;
- the Secretary of State (in connection with public interest interventions under the Enterprise Act 2002);
- the Office of Communications;
- the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation;
- the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority;
- Water Services Regulation Authority;
- the Office of the Rail Regulator; and
- the Civil Aviation Authority.
The Tribunal can also hear certain actions for damages between private parties following on from a regulatory decision finding an infringement of competition law.
- Can I bring my case to the Tribunal?
Under the legislation governing the Tribunal's functions, a person can only challenge certain decisions of the relevant national competition and sectoral regulatory authorities. Those decisions are specified in the relevant legislation. Whether or not you can challenge a particular decision can sometimes be a difficult question of law upon which you may need to take legal advice.
- What other types of proceedings can the Tribunal determine?
Where a person has suffered loss as a result of an infringement of UK or EC competition law (which has been established by a decision of the OFT, sectoral regulator, the Tribunal or the European Commission) that person may make a claim for damages, or any other claim for a sum of money, in proceedings before the Tribunal. Section 47A of the Competition Act 1998 specifies the infringements of competition law in respect of which a claim may be made. More details on this matter can be found on the Rules and Guidance page.
- What can I do if I consider that the implementation of the competition authority’s decision will irreparably harm my business before my appeal can be heard?
The Tribunal can in some circumstances make interim orders or take other interim measures to prevent irreparable harm occurring before the appeal has been finally determined. More details of how to make a request for interim measures can be found on the Rules and Guidance page.
- How do I start a case before the Tribunal?
Proceedings before the Tribunal are governed by its Rules of Procedure. The rules of procedure are explained in the Tribunal’s Guide to Proceedings. Details can be found on the Rules and Guidance page.
- How long do I have to start my case?
Under the Rules of Procedure there are strict time limits within which a case must be commenced. These differ depending on the type of proceedings you intend to bring. You should refer to the Rules for the time limit which concerns your case. The rules are explained in the Tribunal's Guide to Proceedings. Details can be found on the Rules and Guidance page.
- Can I represent myself?
Yes, if you decide that you do not want to be represented by a lawyer. However, bear in mind that the areas covered by the Tribunal often involve complex issues of fact and law and it may therefore be prudent to seek specialist legal advice.
- What happens after I have started my case before the Tribunal?
Generally, once the Tribunal receives an appeal, application or monetary claim the Registrar will check the documents submitted to ensure that they comply with the Rules of Procedure, details of which can be found on the Rules and Guidance page. Once checked the documents will be sent to the competition or sectoral regulatory authority whose decision is being challenged (or served on the person against whom the claim is made). After receiving the appeal or application the Tribunal will typically summon the parties to a case management conference. At that hearing the Tribunal will consider what directions are appropriate in light of the parties’ observations for the further progress of the case. This will include matters such as the filing of the defence and any other documents and when the main oral hearing should take place. In monetary claim proceedings the first case management conference will not usually take place until after the defence is filed. These matters are explained in more detail in the Guide to Proceedings.
- Who will hear my case?
A tribunal of three persons will be constituted by the President to hear a particular case. Those three persons must consist of a legally qualified chairman (either the President or a person drawn from the Tribunal’s panel of chairmen) and two other members drawn from a panel of some 17 persons with relevant specialist knowledge in such areas as law, economics, accountancy and business. The biographies of the President, Chairman and individual members of the Tribunal can be found on the Personnel page.
- Where are cases heard?
The Tribunal’s jurisdiction extends to the whole of the UK. The Tribunal may hold any meeting or hearing in such place and in such manner as it thinks fit having regard to the just expeditious and economical conduct of the proceedings. If a case has a particular connection with a part of the UK, then the Tribunal will hear the case there. To date, Tribunal hearings have been held in Edinburgh and Belfast as well as London. More details about this issue can be found on the Rules and Guidance page. The Tribunal’s administrative office, the Registry, is situated in London. See the Contact Us page for more information.
- Who can attend the Tribunal’s hearings?
Hearings and case management conferences are usually held in public and any judgment or ruling made by the Tribunal during or following those events are published on the Tribunal website. Transcripts of hearings and case management conferences are also published on the website. Hearings and case management conferences are usually held in public although, on occasion, the Tribunal may decide to sit in private for any part of a hearing if it considers that this is appropriate in order to preserve the confidentiality of information.
- Will information I regard as confidential to my business remain confidential in the proceedings?
In general, proceedings before the Tribunal are conducted on a basis that is as fully open and as public as possible. Nevertheless the Tribunal will, where appropriate, take measures to protect confidential information from disclosure during the proceedings. In broad terms confidential information is commercial information the disclosure of which could significantly harm the legitimate business interest of the business to which it relates, or information relating to the private affairs of an individual the disclosure of which could significantly harm his interests. Whether information is information of that description is a matter for the Tribunal to decide.
In the context of proceedings against a competition or regulatory authority, confidential treatment cannot be accorded in favour of an appellant as against the respondent authority since the Tribunal cannot rely in its judgment on any matters which have not been the subject of disclosure between the principal parties. The Tribunal may however decide that it is appropriate to maintain the confidentiality of information as regards third party interveners and the general public. The Guide to Proceedings explains the position in more detail.
- How long does the process take?
Cases before the Tribunal often raise complicated issues and may involve a significant number of parties so it may be difficult to know at the outset how long a particular case will last. However the Tribunal does seek to manage the cases tightly and, in general aims, to complete “straightforward” cases in less than nine months.
- What can I do if I am dissatisfied with a judgment of the Tribunal?
A further appeal lies from the Tribunal to the “appropriate court” only on a point of law or the amount of any penalty. This depends on which part of the United Kingdom the case concerns. The “appropriate court” will be:
in the case of Tribunal proceedings in England and Wales, the Court of Appeal;
in the case of Tribunal proceedings in Scotland, the Inner House of the Court of Session; or
in the case of Tribunal proceedings in Northern Ireland, the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland.
A further appeal requires the permission of the Tribunal or the appropriate appellate court.
- How can I find out information about a case?
Information about ongoing cases, past cases and judgments may be found on the Tribunal website or by contacting the Tribunal’s Registry. Very soon after a case has been received, a summary of the case will be published on the Tribunal website to notify those who may have a sufficient interest in the proceedings and who may wish to seek permission to intervene.
- What can I do if I am concerned about the outcome of a particular case?
If you have a sufficient interest in the outcome of the proceedings, you may be entitled to request permission to intervene in the case in order to support the position being taken by one of the parties. In this instance the Tribunal’s Registry should be contacted as soon as practicable. Further details can be found on the Rules and Guidance page. Even if you do not wish or are not permitted to intervene in a case, the Tribunal’s main oral hearings take place in public. Transcripts of the hearings and any consequent judgments are also published on the Tribunal website.
- What is the Competition Service?
The Competition Service is a body corporate which provides funding and support services (such as staff, premises and equipment) for the work of the Tribunal. Further details can be found on the Competition Service page.
- How can I contact the CAT?
The day to day running of the Tribunal is the responsibility of the Registrar. The Registry is the first point of contact for members of the public with the Tribunal. See the Contact us page for further details.