Antitrust Damages Actions Styled as Unjust Enrichment Claims: A Comment on the Tokyo District Court's Decision in the Jet Fuel Bid-Rigging Case
e-Competitions Bulletin, June 2011
7 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2013 Last revised: 20 Feb 2013
Date Written: 2011
This short article analyzes a recent decision of the Tokyo District Court in a civil antitrust case. The Japanese State brought the action to recover what it had overpaid as a result of price-fixing. The nine defendant companies had fixed the price of jet fuel and other oil products supplied to the Japanese military. The case was an episode in a litigation saga that lasted well over a decade and also entailed criminal and administrative proceedings.
The Japanese State did not style its action as an action for damages but as an action for restitution based on unjust enrichment. Those claims are subject to somewhat different rules than damages actions and these differences played out quite favorably for the plaintiff (the Japanese State). Indeed, the Japanese State benefited from the longer statute of limitations period for unjust enrichment claims. In addition, the burden of proving and quantifying the overcharge was essentially shifted to the defendants. The case therefore illustrates the advantages of styling an antitrust damages claim as a claim based on unjust enrichment. Conversely, the case highlights that, when assessing civil liability risks, companies and their advisers would do well to take into account the specific risks posed by unjust enrichment claims.
An earlier version of this article appeared as: Simon Vande Walle, A Japanese court awards damages (restitution) to the Japanese State in a bid-rigging case concerning the supply of jet fuel, e-Competitions Bulletin (June 2011). That version can be consulted in the e-Competitions database (case no. 50858).
Keywords: antitrust law, competition law, antitrust litigation, antitrust enforcement, bid-rigging, damages, quantification of harm, calculation of harm
JEL Classification: K21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation