More and more companies that have been importing leather shoes from China are joining an informal group that plans to request the reimbursement of the anti-dumping duties they paid to the European Commission before they were lifted one year ago.

The group currently consists of about 25 small and large firms, including some major athletic footwear brands, but it is open to all kinds of companies. The group is coordinated by Alberto Bichi, secretary general of Fesi, the European sporting goods industry federation, but it includes a growing number of importers of casual and dress shoes. Some of those firms belong to HDS, the German shoe industry federation, which has been in the forefront of the abolition of the duties.

The group's hopes for compensation have been lifted by recent rulings by a panel of the World Trade Organization and by the European Court of Justice. As already reported in Shoe Intelligence, the court supported the claims of four Chinese shoe manufacturers that they had respected market economy principles, but it did not order a restitution of the duties paid by their European importers. The court has yet to rule on other similar claims by other Chinese producers.

Observers indicate that it may take up to five years for importers to get their money back, as the required procedure is long and complex. They may have to complain first to their local customs offices and appeal to national authorities before taking their case to the European authorities. An expert is advocating a settlement with the European Commission as a compromise to avoid legal costs and shorten the procedure, but Bichi said that the members of his group are determined to fight for full compensation until the bitter end.