Tobacco Licence Fee Recovery Litigation

Until 1997, Retailers throughout Australia paid license fees to state governments for the right to sell tobacco. The fees were paid by the retailer to the major tobacco companies who were then to pay the State governments. In 1997 and 2001 the High Court held that the licence fees charged by the State governments were unconstitutional and that retailers were entitled to recover the licence fees paid to the tobacco companies. However the tobacco companies refused to repay the licence fees paid over a 5 week period in 1997 totalling more than $100 million, and strongly contested litigation brought to force them to repay the money.

The action

Maurice Blackburn commenced actions in each Australian state and territory on behalf of more than 10,000 Australian retailers seeking recovery of the licence fees paid. The case was initially heard in the NSW Supreme Court.


The defendant tobacco companies agreed to settle with eligible claimants prior to judgment being delivered. Eligible claimants recovered all or the majority of their losses.

Supporting information