The Bundeskartellamt has imposed fines totalling around €646 million on Ilsenburger Grobblech GmbH, thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG and voestalpine Grobblech GmbH as well as three responsible persons for collusion in breach of antitrust law in the period from mid-2002 to June 2016 because they exchanged and agreed on certain surcharges and surcharges for quarto plates in Germany. Quarto plates are hot-rolled steel flat products. They are used in particular in the areas of bridge construction, building construction, shipbuilding, boiler or pressure vessel construction, general mechanical engineering, as well as for the construction of wind towers and pipelines and in the offshore industry. In this respect, companies processing this steel have presumably paid significantly inflated prices. They have therefore suffered damages, which they can assert with the help of legal instruments. In this context, customers who purchased the products from so-called "cartel outsiders" may also have a claim for damages. It is therefore advisable to have a possible damages payment determined and to assert the damages in the event of a claim.

Injured parties are, however, potentially deterred by the supposed effort and hurdles involved in asserting their claims: starting with the collection, sifting and comprehensive evaluation of the underlying documents (e.g. purchase contracts, invoices, delivery notes). In fact, this work can be problematic in experienced practice and is far too often underestimated. In the absence of meaningful, valid evidence, the attempt to enforce a claim is not recommended - also for cost reasons!

We offer you a solution with our services based on state-of-the-art technologies: With the help of artificial intelligence, the relevant information can be determined quickly and easily from the existing documents (sales contracts, invoices, delivery notes). For this purpose, it is not necessary to have the injured party manually sift through and sort the relevant documents beforehand. Even a digitalization of the documents does not have to be a burden for the injured party. Control and coordination of the cooperation of the parties involved are mapped transparently and with little effort with the help of IT tools. Let us support you in the enforcement of your claims in document collection, digitization, data evaluation and damage assessment. Find out below how this increases the satisfaction of all parties involved in the process and facilitates the substantiation of claims for damages:

Collection of the relevant documents

Often the victims of a cartel shy away from enforcing their claims, as they combine the proof of the damage suffered with a time-consuming study of the files. Finally, the disputed references refer to periods of time, some of which go back more than 20 years. Here, the injured party can be offered support by simply handing over the files to a specialised digitisation partner or having them collected by him. The entire document stock is then digitised in compliance with data protection regulations using professional high-performance scanners. Afterwards, the injured party receives his physical document stock back 1:1 by courier.

Recognition and classification of relevant documents

As soon as the documents are available in a digitally processable form, the first use of our AI models can take place: without further human intervention, the entire document inventory is searched and grouped, for example, by layout, supplier and document type. This helps to differentiate the documents that are relevant for the assessment of the damage from all other (irrelevant) documents. Thus, without any effort on the part of the claimant or the law firm, the focus can be on the essential data.

Information extraction and evaluation of compensation claims against flat steel manufacturers

In the next step, the necessary information can be determined (extracted). For this purpose, a data model is defined which is based on experience in processing such cartel damages and takes into account the requirements of lawyers and experts. The AI model, which has previously been trained by our experts, then automatically and reliably recognizes this required data in all relevant documents. If necessary, this data is validated with regard to its correctness and consistency. As a result, the required data is then available in a structured, easily processable form (e.g. Excel, database).

Loss assessment and allocation

This relevant and structured information about the purchased flat steel products then serves and facilitates both the early assessment and - if this appears advisable - the expert determination of the damage. If this arises in the course of the process, additional information can also be determined quickly and automatically from the documents. In order to ensure legal certainty and not to provide the opposing party with any room for attack, the information determined should also be linked to the respective documents and the procedure used should be clearly documented.

Legal enforcement of claims

On these bases, a lawyer can legally present the claim for damages. This is then used to assert the previously raised claims under civil law, which does not necessarily have to end with a lawsuit in court. A prior agreement on an out-of-court compensation payment can also be in the interest of all parties involved and significantly shorten the process of claim enforcement.

If necessary, claims can be bundled and lead to cost savings as well as to an increased perception on the part of the opponents (cartelists) due to their greater clout. But even smaller amounts of damage do not pose a fundamental problem.

Are you involved in the determination of damages claims?

Whether litigation funders, expert witnesses/economists, or attorneys, we can assist you in the use of artificial intelligence in damage claims against flat steel manufacturers.

Coordination and transparency

Such a procedure initially sounds like a complex undertaking. But it doesn't have to be if you rely on experts who are experienced in this kind of procedure and understand the viewpoint of the individual parties involved. The time schedule, the interaction of the parties involved and the necessary exchange of information can be systematically designed at an early stage and should be continuously monitored. Here, too, the use of suitable IT systems offers the possibility of creating transparency about the current status and further procedure through regular reports and status notifications to those involved.

bottom line

The German legal system has a well-functioning system of civil actions for damages, which supports the enforcement of such claims. Often the core challenge actually consists in the well-founded proof and justification of the damages incurred in court and vis-à-vis the opposing party. In this respect, we are at your side as a powerful partner who specializes in self-learning and high-quality information retrieval using artificial intelligence in document-based processes. Thus, inserve has already been able to apply and continuously optimise extensive, specialised and field-tested tools and procedures in many cartels (e.g. truck, round timber, sugar).

Together with a strong legal partner and, if necessary, also a litigation financier, the damages incurred can be successfully claimed. You are welcome to contact us in this regard.

I would be happy to answer any further questions you may have regarding the use of AI in damages actions against flat steel manufacturers.

Ben Peters

Head of Division