Airlines win fight against EU cargo cartel fines


The EU’s second highest court has overturned €790m in penalties against 11 airlines for running an air cargo cartel in Europe for six years.

The inquiry into the airlines cartel began in 2006 when officials raided the offices of several air cargo companies seeking evidence they were co-ordinating pricing on fuel surcharges.

On November 9, 2010, the European Commission decided to fine eleven airlines for participation in a global cartel in the air cargo sector. Most of the airlines involved appealed the decisionto the European Court of first instance, the General Court. Today, nearly five years later, the European Court has annulled the European Commission’s decision.

The General Court found that European Commission antitrust authorities had relied on contradictory arguments when they fined the airlines in 2010 because they accused the carriers of running a single cartel but only provided price fixing evidence for smaller groups of companies on specific routes.

The commission can still appeal the case to the EU Court of Justice.

If Wednesday’s decision stands, the biggest beneficiaries would be Air France, which was originally fined €182.9m, KLM (€127.2m) and British Airways (€104m). Other carriers affected include Air Canada (€21m), Martinair (€29.5m), Cargolux (€79.9m), Cathay Pacific (€57.1m), JAL (€35.7m), LAN Chile (€8.2m), Qantas (€8.9m), SAS (€70.2m) and Singapore Airlines (€74.8m).

“The European Court’s judgment is in line with SAS’s position and shows that SAS was correct to proceed with this matter. SAS will now review the judgment to determine any further action, particularly in relation to the ongoing civil damages cases, which are largely based on the European Commission’s decision that has now been annulled,” says Marie Wohlfahrt, General Counsel at SAS.

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