EUROPE: A number of European rail companies have began proceedings in the UK's Competition Appeal Tribunal on December 15 seeking to recover excess prices paid for carbon products used in rolling stock electrical systems when a group of suppliers was operating a cartel in 1988-99.

Hausfeld & Co LLP and Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira are acting on behalf of 31 claimants including Deutsche Bahn, NS, Trenitalia, CP, Angel Trains, Metro de Madrid EuroMaint Rail and EMEF. The claims are against Morgan Crucible, Schunk, SGL, Mersen (formerly Le Carbone-Lorraine) and Hoffman.

In December 2003 the European Commission imposed fines on the suppliers totalling €101m, with Morgan Crucible receiving immunity as whistleblower.

'Given the geographic scope of the case and the significance of the claimants, this claim marks a real landmark in the new wave of private antitrust damages actions in Europe, so much heralded by the European Commision in the last few years', said Cuatrecasas partner Paul Hitchings.