Sarah Houghton Partner

Contact Information

+44 20 3321 7214

Personal Profile

Sarah is a Partner in the Firm's Litigation Department. She specialises in UK & EU Competition Law.

Sarah has particular experience acting for both claimants and defendants in complex and high profile cases involving competition law based claims or defences.  Sarah has represented clients in leading competition damages claims in the English High Court and the Competition Appeal Tribunal. She advises on both strategic and legal issues associated with litigation, such as choice of forum and media strategy.

Sarah also assists businesses that find themselves under investigation by Competition Regulators and businesses that are concerned about the way their affairs may have been conducted – attending Dawn Raids, advising on defence strategies, assisting with responses to information requests, applying for leniency from fines (where appropriate), assessing potential civil liabilities, and making appropriate submissions.

Sarah regularly undertakes competition law audits, and provides training and compliance materials tailored to the particular needs of various types of businesses, including how to deal with dawn raids.

She also advises on the competition law aspects of transactions and commercial agreements, including ways to structure agreements and alter commercial behaviour in order to minimise competition law risks. Her advice regularly considers the interplay between competition law and other legal standards, particularly intellectual property rights.

She works across all sectors and has particular experience of the technology,  life sciences, information technology, transport, and media and telecommunications industries.

Key Experience

Competition Litigation
  • Advising Microsoft in relation to its claim against various manufacturers of lithium batteries in the UK High Court for breach of EU and various domestic competition laws.
  • Advising John Lewis Plc in relation to its claims against MasterCard and Visa in the UK High Court that the payment card schemes have illegally fixed the default multilateral interchange fee between issuing and acquiring banks.
  • Advising Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd in relation to its claim against MasterCard in the UK High Court and Competition Appeal Tribunal that MasterCard has illegally fixed the default multilateral interchange fee between issuing and acquiring banks. This was the lead case on interchange fees in the UK.
  • Advising a major technology giant on competition recovery in Europe, as part of the Firm's role as strategic adviser on European recovery work
  • Advising a party in relation to the possible legal risks to it following the OFT's 2011 Decision fining pharmaceutical company, Reckitt Benckiser, for breach of the Chapter II Prohibition of the Competition Act 1998 (abuse of a dominant position) and the follow on damages claims brought in the UK High Court by the Department for Health and generic competitors.
  • Advising an agrichemicals manufacturer in relation to competition law defences raised in a commercial contract defence in the UK Commercial Court.
  • Advising a joint venture between two major oil companies in relation to its claim in the Chancery Division and Court of Appeal against the owner of a port alleging various abuses of a dominant position and related claims under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.
  • Advising a former director of a company on a CMA investigation into a suspected breach of competition law in the pharmaceutical sector under Chapter II CA98 and Article 102 of TFEU.
  • Advising a commercial vehicle dealer on its successful immunity application in the OFT's investigation into infringements of the Competition Act 1998 in the Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle dealership network.
  • Advising a manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals in relation to an investigation by the European Commission under Article 101/102 TFEU into "reverse payment" patent litigation settlements between innovator and generic pharmaceutical companies and during the early stages of follow-on litigation.
  • Advising a UK PLC in relation to the OFT's investigation into collusive tendering in the construction industry and acting on the successful appeal by a separate construction company of the OFT's decision to the Competition Appeal Tribunal.
  • Advising a member of the International Association of Classification Societies ("IACS"), in relation to the European Commission's investigation into the treatment by IACS of third party Classification Societies which were not members of IACS under (then) Articles 81 and 82 EC and the subsequent Article 9 EC commitments entered into between IACS and the European Commission.
  • Advising companies in sectors including fashion, pharmaceuticals, life sciences, transport and automotive, on licensing and supply agreements, franchise agreements, and setting up and revising their worldwide distribution networks.
  • Advising a publisher of benchmarking surveys on competition compliance and risk.
  • Advising several companies in relation to complaints to the European Commission and Office of Fair Trading alleging various abuses of dominant position (including bundling and tying in the software market; refusal of access to an essential facility by a broadband operator; refusal of access/excessive pricing by an incumbent broadcaster).
  • Advising several major sports rights holders on the interaction between intellectual property law and competition law in the context of the licensing of broadcasting rights.
  • Advising the owner of key racing data on the application of competition law to its pricing strategy and advising a racing regulator on its guidelines for the approval of operators.
Mergers and Markets
  • Advising a municipal bus operator in respect of the Competition Commission's investigation into the supply of local bus services.
  • Advising a major international airline on the competition law implications of its various partnerships with other airlines, including code-sharing, joint marketing and pricing, inter-lining, and acquisitions of shareholdings in other airlines.
  • Advising private equity funds on various acquisitions, particularly in the automotive and hotels sector, including advising on multi-jurisdictional merger aspects and the implications of worldwide cartel investigations.

Career History

Partner, Mishcon de Reya LLP
Managing Associate, Mishcon de Reya LLP
Associate, DLA Piper UK LLP
Solicitor, Bell Gully
MA, EC Competition Law (Pass with Merit), Kings College London
LLB (Hons), B.Com (Economics), University of Auckland, New Zealand