B.C.’s Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

B.C.’s Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Class-action lawsuit alleges conspiracy leading to British Columbians being overcharged for vehicles

The B.C. Appeal court certifies as a class-action proceeding litigation aimed at alleged price-fixing conspiracy

A class-action lawsuit seeking compensation related to an alleged price-fixing conspiracy that resulted in British Columbian being overcharged for vehicles has been given the green light to proceed from the Court of Appeal.

Justice Mary Saunders, in a May 29 judgment in Vancouver related to Darren Ewert versus Nippon Yusen Kaushiki Kaisha et al, overturned the decision of a lower court judge who declined to certify the litigation as class action under the Class Proceedings Act after finding Ewert’s expert failed to determine if data needed to assess if an overcharge had been passed through to indirect purchasers was available.

“I would allow the appeal in part and certify the action as a class proceeding in respect of the direct and indirect purchasers of the vehicle carrier services provided by the defendants during the class period,” Saunders decided, with Justices Harvey Groberman and John Hunter concurring.

The appeal court found that the lower court judge erred by imposing a standard to identify data that exceeded statutory requirements. The litigation centres on the allegation of a price-fixing conspiracy of marine shippers who bring automobiles and other vehicles across the oceans to Canada. Ewert claims this resulted in higher costs to himself and others who bought vehicles in B.C.

“To succeed in the litigation,” Saunders noted, “he will have to establish that the conspiracy existed, that it resulted in excess shipping charges, and that those charges were passed on to him and to others in a like position. He seeks to certify the action as a class action.”

READ ALSO: Court of appeal advances class action lawsuit in ICBC privacy violations case

The defendants are vehicle carriers that transport cars, trucks and other equipment by ocean to Canada, including Vancouver, using specialized cargo ships known as roll on/roll off vessels. Ewert claims that between Feb. 1, 1997 and Dec. 31, 2012 they made illegal price-fixing agreements that artificially inflated the price of transporting the vehicles.

“The plaintiff’s theory is that as a consequence of these price-fixing agreements, the cost of transporting these vehicles was artificially and unreasonably enhanced, and that the extra cost was passed on to purchasers of the vehicles resulting in an overcharge for those vehicles,” Saunders explained. “He seeks to bring a class proceeding to recover for himself and other similarly situated persons the loss caused by the alleged conspiracy, or a proportionate share of the benefits realized by the defendants as a result of the alleged conspiracy.”

The plaintiff also claims punitive damages.

Saunders noted Ewert has led evidence that all of the defendants “have pled guilty, sought amnesty or reached compromise agreements” in the U.S. and Japan “in repect of anti-competition wrongs arising from agreements relating to international shipping services to North America.”

There is a long list of defendants. They are Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, NYK Line Inc. (North America and Canada), Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., Mitsui O.S.K. Bulk Shipping (U.S.A.) Inc., Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd., “K” Line America Inc., Eukor Car Carriers Inc., Wilh. Wilhelmsen Logistics Americas LLC, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics AS, Wallenius Lines AB, WWL Vehicle Services Canada Ltd., Toyfuji Shipping Co. Ltd., Compania Sud Americana De Vapores S.A., CSAV Agency North America LLC, Nissan Motor Car Carrier Co. Ltd, World Logistics Service (USA) Inc., Hoegh Autoliners AS and Hoegh Autoliners Inc.

A dozen lawyers were heard in the appeal case.

The judge noted the “central issue” is whether Ewert has a “plausible methodology to prove that any excess charges were passed on to vehicle purchasers and not simply absorbed along the supply chain.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Various Victoria locations were hit with a slew of anti-bylaw graffiti Wednesday. This image has been altered to cover up profane language. (Submitted photo)
UPDATED: Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti an ‘unacceptable’ form of communication says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

Greg Chow is the 2021 Local Hero of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Fighting fire a family affair for Colwood Assistant Chief Greg Chow

With 38 years of service, Greg Chow is the 2021 Hero of the Year

This rendering shows plans for the new “flyover”overpass connecting northbound traffic on Highway 17 heading west on Keating Cross Road. Plans currently seeking public input propose two options for the median along Keating Cross Road. Option 1 will prevent left turns onto Tamany Drive and Buena Vista Road. Option 2 (seen here)will allow for left turns onto Tamany Drive and Bujena Vista Road. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Public asked for comment on proposed overpass for Pat Bay in Central Saanich

New flyover overpass proposed for Highway 17 and Keating Cross Road

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

A Nanaimo RCMP vehicle in the Woodgrove Centre parking lot. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman groped by stranger in mall parking lot in Nanaimo

Incident happened near bus loop Saturday, Feb. 20, at about 4:45 p.m.

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

Most Read