Greggs, the bakery chain, is in talks to join a multibillion-pound legal case against a group of truckmakers fined for price-fixing over a 14-year period.
Sky News can reveal that Greggs is among a number of major companies weighing whether to join a claim being brought by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) which could total almost £4bn.
Greggs, which trades from more than 1,800 stores across the country, operates a large fleet of delivery trucks and is understood to be seriously considering participating in the action.
The RHA wants the Competition Appeal Tribunal, a Government-backed agency, to conclude that compensation is owed to claimants by the likes of DAF, Daimler and Iveco.
Five truck manufacturers were fined nearly €3bn (£2.7bn) last year by the European Commission for operating a cartel between 1997 and 2011.
The RHA believes that British hauliers are due compensation of an average £6,000 for each truck sold during the period, with roughly 650,000 trucks thought to have been bought by UK-based customers.
It was unclear on Wednesday how many trucks are operated by Greggs, which refused to disclose the size of its fleet.
A source close to the RHA claim, which is being funded by specialist litigation funder Therium Capital Management, said that talks with Greggs and other potential participants were ongoing.
A spokeswoman for the bakery chain declined to comment.
If it does decide to join the claim, it could become the source of an unlikely windfall for Greggs as it plots an expansion into drive-through outlets and a home delivery service.
The full list of truckmakers which will be the subject of the claim to the CAT also includes Scania, MAN and Volvo Group, which manufactures both Volvo and Renault trucks.
Scania did not settle with the European Commission last year and is still thought to be under investigation.
The second-hand truck market was also deemed to have been affected by what the commission described as cartel-like behaviour in both pricing and on moves to pass on the costs of compliance with stricter emissions rules.
In addition to Therium, the RHA’s team includes Backhouse Jones, a firm of solicitors, and Exchange Chambers, the barristers, which will lead the claim.
Richard Burnett, the RHA’s chief executive, said in June that its members were “angry about the truck-pricing cartel”.
“UK truck owners affected by the truck cartel have potentially paid too much for their lorries over a 14-year period and we’re determined to get a fair deal for them,” Mr Burnett said.
“This is a chance to get their compensation with no risk to their business or finances.
“As the representative body with sole responsibility for UK road freight operators, we are duty-bound to act on behalf of our members’ wishes.”
Last year’s fines in Europe sent shockwaves through the business community as they smashed the record for penalties imposed on a single cartel.
Announcing them, Margrethe Vestager, the EU Competition Commissioner, said last July: “There are over 30 million trucks on European roads, which account for around three-quarters of inland transport of goods in Europe and play a vital role for the European economy.
“It is not acceptable that MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF, which together account for around nine out of every 10 medium and heavy trucks produced in Europe, were part of a cartel instead of competing with each other.”
By blowing the whistle on the companies’ activities, MAN avoided a fine that would have been in the region of €1.2bn.
Source: Sky News