Leeds City Council v Watkins, Whiteley: ChD 25 Mar 2003

The authority sought to control local unlicensed Sunday markets.
Held: The Acts gave the authority the right to run its own markets, and to license others. That right included in each case the right to prevent others competing within the area designated. An argument that a right to prosecute was a sufficient remedy and excluded a power to prevent a market operating did not work. This was a separate and self contained statutory scheme.
JohnLambert Neither arts 81 and 82 of the Treaty of Rome, nor s. 2 and s. 18 of the Competition Act 1998, prevent local authorities from enforcing their common law and statutory powers to regulate markets.
Part of the defence to a claim by the Council against operators of various car boot sales was that the authority had taken decisions, either on its own or in conjunction with other local councils who belonged to the National Association of British Market Authorities, that might affect trade, either within the UK or between the UK and other EC member states, so as to prevent or distort competition. The judge rejected that argument on the ground that neither the Association nor its member authorities were ‘undertakings’ within the meaning of art 81 EEC or s. 2 of the 1998 Act. Further, even if they had been ‘undertakings’, his lordship found no evidence of an agreement or concerted practice.
Similarly, the sale organisers had alleged that the City Council had abused a dominant position. Again, they failed to persuade his lordship that the Council had occupied a dominant position within the ECJ’s definition in United Brands -v- Commission [1978] ECR 207. The judge found that even if it had been in a dominant position, the Council’s conduct would not have amounted to abuse.
The intriguing aspect of this case is that it was decided entirely on the facts leaving open the possibility tat the arguments could still be good in law.
The Honourable Mr Justice Peter Smith
Times 09-Apr-2003, [2003] EWHC 598 (Ch)
West Yorkshire Act 1980, Leeds Corporation (Consolidation) Act 1905
England and Wales

Updated: 09 January 2021; Ref: scu.180328