I am very happy to present here the new book of Simon Vande Walle.
Lacking the time necessary to write a proper book review, I just want to highlight a few points.
Plenty has been written about litigation in Japan. The problem with this literature is that litigation is such a broad and heterogeneous phenomenon that it is very hard to draw meaningful conclusions. As a result, we became stuck with intractable questions such as “do the Japanese litigate less frequently than other people?” or “is there a non-litigious culture in Japan?”.
More recent literature tends to focus on specific types of disputes, such as traffic accident disputes, environmental law litigation (on which I will present at the AIGDC symposium), and so on. This approach seems to be more promising.
Vande Walle’s book is a new addition to this type of scholarship. It focuses on a particular type of litigation, namely private antitrust litigation, and compares the dynamics of these lawsuits in Japan and the EU.
With “private antitrust litigation”, Vande Walle means litigation brought by victims of violations of antitrust law (in Japan, known as dokusenkinshiho 独占禁止法 ). These lawsuits constitute a form of “private enforcement” of antitrust law, complementing the enforcement by public agencies such as, for example, the Japan Fair Trade Commission in Japan or the European Commission in the EU. That this is a burgeoning field of litigation can be clearly understood from a graph in the book which shows the evolution of the number of cases filed in Japan:
The book contains an interesting discussion on what triggered this rise in cases (p. 132-134). There is much talk in the EU and Japan about collective redress for consumers these days. Italy enacted a statute on collective actions in 2009, and just last week the EU recommended that all member states develop a collective redress mechanism. Interestingly, in Japan, consumer groups were already suing for damages against cartels in the 1970s (p. 255-272). However, the consumers lost and it seems they never recovered because there have been no consumer actions against cartels ever since.
This seems to be the first work to compare private antitrust litigation in the EU and Japan. Vande Walle offers some clues as to why this area has not been explored before: Although Japanese scholars have paid some attention to the experience in Europe, European scholars have completely ignored Japan’s experience. In part, this is due to the scarcity of materials in Western languages. Another reason for the neglect is perhaps the image that private antitrust litigation in Japan is non-existent. While this may have been true in the 1980s, it no longer is, as shown by the almost 300 cases examined for this book.
For these reasons, I warmly recommend this book not only to all scholars of Japanese law, but to all those interested in antitrust law.