European court overturns price-fixing fines on leading airlines

European court overturns price-fixing fines on leading airlines

The European Union’s second-highest court has overturned €790 million in fines imposed on British Airways, Air France-KLM and nine other airlines by the European Commission in 2010.

EC antitrust authorities levied the fines after accusing the carriers of price fixing following a four-year inquiry into fuel-surcharge pricing on cargo.

BA was fined €104 million, Air France €183 million, KLM €127 million, SAS €70 million, Singapore Airlines €75 million and Cathay Pacific €57 million.

Freight carrier Cargolux was fined €80 million, and Air Canada, JAL, LAN Chile, Martinair and Qantas were also fined.

But the EU General Court found that while the Commission accused the carriers of running a single cartel, it only provided price-fixing evidence for smaller groups of companies on some routes.

It agreed with the carriers’ argument that the Commission failed to show the airlines were working together.

The court found “a contradiction between the grounds of the decision and its operative part”.

The EC had not proved the cases for a “single and continuous infringement”.

The fines stemmed from an investigation begun in 2006 which looked into pricing at 20 carriers and officials raid airline cargo offices.

In a statement, the Commission said it was examining the judgment and its implications “as well as potential next steps”.

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