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Legal Precedents and Smoking Guns

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Have you ever heard of a Norwich Pharmacal Order?

Probably not. Neither had we. It is a legal mechanism in which a Court orders someone to disclose information. In 2016, there was a new legal precedent set, as a Norwich Pharmacal Order was made in relation to a potential claim under the Competition Act 1998.

You may find the specifics of the case interesting:

The applicant:

Zantra Ltd. A UK distributor of crop protection products.

The context:

With several years of trading in the UK, Zantra was appointed to carry products by one of the main crop protection manufacturers, starting in 1st January 2016. The judge heard this was critical for Zantra to compete on an equivalent basis to the five existing national distributors who held 80-90% of the market between them.

On 11th December 2015, just three weeks before supply was due to begin, the manufacturer called Zantra to cancel delivery. In this conversation, the manufacturer cited they had no choice, as the magnitude of reaction from existing distributors was beyond anything they had expected. As such, the negative commercial impact of working with Zantra was too great.

The claim:

Zantra wished to bring court action against the national distributors for breach of Competition Law, claiming they had come together to unite against Zantra. In order to bring this claim, Zantra needed to confirm the identities of the specific distributors involved, and requested the manufacturer to disclose all.

The decision:

The High Court ruled there was reasonable ground to infer that there had been anti-competitive collusion and the manufacturer was ordered to disclose all materials.

The defendant?

This was not a small UK manufacturer of crop protection. This was BASF PLC, a £57bn global company, who wished to respond to UK farmers’ desire by broadening its supply base.


Is UK Ag Chem supply working in the best interest of the UK farmer?

Who said the law couldn’t be interesting.


Source: High Court of Justice Approved Judgement, [2016] EWHC 3578 (Ch)