Fountain Court Chambers

London & Singapore

Competition

Fountain Court is regarded as a premier set within the ‘magic circle’ of leading commercial sets of barristers in London and Singapore.  Members of chambers advise and represent clients in business transactions and commercial disputes of all kinds and at all levels.  They specialise in a number of practice areas including aviation, administrative and public law, banking and finance, civil fraud and employment.  As a result of this expertise a number of members regularly advise on competition issues arising from European and global business transactions and disputes.

For example, no fewer than 11 members of chambers acted in the long-running competition and banking matter concerning the legality of bank charges: The Office of Fair Trading v. Abbey National & Others. Members of Fountain Court acted for the OFT, two more of our silks were acting for Barclays Bank; two silks and  two juniors acted for Lloyds TSB; another Fountain Court silk acted for HSBC whilst another silk led one of our juniors to act for HBOS.

Sir Francis Jacobs QC, a Fountain Court door tenant, enjoyed a long career appearing in leading cases before the European Commission and Court of Human Rights following which he was Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Communities between 1988 and 2006. He has since returned to the UK to resume his practice at Fountain Court advising on European and International law.

Fountain Court members occupy prominent positions in this arena, including Marcus Smith QC who sits as a Chairman of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which hears appeals against competition law decisions of sector regulators and the Competition and Markets Authority, as well as section 47A “follow-on” damages claims.

Members of Fountain Court act for private clients as well as being regularly instructed by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The set’s  competition expertise has been substantially enhanced by the addition of new door tenant David Wingfield, one of Canada’s leading advocates and former Executive Director and Senior General Counsel of the antitrust/competition law section of Canada’s Federal Department of Justice from 2011-2014.  His role as lead counsel has included acting in litigation to prevent the merger of Air Canada and United Airlines through the use of joint venture agreements, the largest anti-trust enforcement litigation conducted in recent years to prohibit international airline mergers, and the largest case in the world against telecommunication companies to prevent the practice of “mobile cramming”.

Fountain Court members’ reputation for their ability to manage complex, cross-border cases is amply demonstrated by international cases such as the following ongoing inquiries: Inquiry under the Canadian Competition Act into whether Google Inc. is abusing its position in the market for internet-based search/advertising (currently the leading inquiry in the world on this issue); inquiry into whether Aviscar Inc., Budgetcar Inc. and Avis Budget Group Inc. have engaged in pricing misrepresentations (currently the largest inquiry of this nature in the world) and; multi-national inquiries or investigations involving cross-border  alleged misleading marketing practices involving digital commerce and alleged price-fixing, including providing advice on the civil implications of the Inquiry into the purchase, sale or supply of interest rate derivatives against involving a major international bank (“Libor Inquiry”).

Excelling both aviation and competition law means that we have members who have acted in many cases for the Civil Aviation Authority such as advising them: on proposed amendments to the ATOL scheme; in judicial review proceedings relating to a takeover dispute between European airlines; on the collapse of the XL Travel Group and; on the applicability of the Competition Act to the provision of air traffic services in the UK.  Members have also acted for major airlines in competition cases such as a scarce capacity hearing before the Civil Aviation Authority for the London to Moscow route.  Other cases have dealt with the competition issues relating to state protection of non-profitable air routes, and acting for the regulator in judicial review proceedings concerning the consequences of the merger of two airlines.

Other significant competition cases include:

  • Deutsche Bahn AG v Morgan Crucible [2011] CAT 16. Application of limitation periods under section 47A of the Competition Act 1998.
  • GM I Construction Holdings plc v OFT [2011] CAT 12;AH Willis & Sons Ltd v OFT [2011] CAT 13, North Midland Construction plc v OFT [2011] CAT 14. Three appeals out of the decision of the OFT regarding cover pricing in the construction industry.
  • British Telecommunications plc v OFCOM (PPC) [2011] CAT 5. Appeal from a decision of OFCOM under the dispute resolution process under the Communications Act 2003 regarding the nature and effect of certain SMP condition imposed on BT.
  • British Telecommunications plc v OFCOM (admissibility of evidence)[2010] CAT 17, affirmed on appeal to the Court of Appeal [2011] EWCA Civ 245. On the admissibility of evidence on appeals to the CAT.
  • Acting for automotive, clothing and furniture manufacturers in a number of multi-million pound follow-on damages claims arising out of the Threads and Fasteners cartels
  • Acting for a major UK retail bank in the Interchange fees dispute
  • Advising one of the defendant banks in the EC cartel proceedings relating to manipulation of Euribor
  • Advising on EU competition law issues in two ICC arbitrations between major European airlines and a global distribution system operator
  • Advising in proceedings taken by the EU Commission against a pharmaceutical company regarding the circumstances in which patent settlement agreements infringe the EU competition rules
  • Advised manufacturers of electronic cigarettes as to the legality of the proposed revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive
  • Advised a Czech bank as to whether a restructuring plan adopted by the Czech state constituted aid applicable after accession requiring review by the Commission under Article 108 TFEU
  • Advising in relation to the European Commission’s proposals to regulate the cost of international mobile roaming services
  • Acting for the Claimant in Safeway v Twigger [2011] 2 All ER 841 in Safeway’s claim against its former directors and employees after it had been fined by the OFT under Chapter 1 of the 1998 Act (section 2(1); section 36) for having entered into illegal horizontal and vertical agreements with supermarkets and dairies whereby the retail price of milk was raised on a concerted basis
  • Acting for the claimant in Francovich damages claims

The variety of cases we are involved in demonstrates Fountain Court’s barristers’ breadth and depth of technical ability in this highly complex area of law.  This quality is why they are regularly instructed by the competition arena’s governing bodies and the corporations who are affected by these issues through the nature of their business.