20 March 2017

SAS is once again to pay major fine for participating in the Air Cargo cartel     

SAS and a number of other airlines have once again been fined by the European Commission for their participation in the Air Cargo cartel. In 2015, the European General Court annulled  the Commission's decision due to a procedural error. The Commission has now remedied the error and changed its decision.

In 2010, the Commission imposed fines on 11 airlines of approx. EUR 800 million for illegal cartel operation on the air freight market in the period 1999-2006. The Commission concluded that the participating airlines had coordinated the prices for fuel and security surcharges. 

Subsequently, the airlines brought legal action before the General Court claiming cancellation of the Commission's decision, except for one airline, which accepted the decision. In December 2015, the General Court cancelled the Commission's decision and all the fines imposed on the airlines. The General Court found that the Commission's decision was self-contradicting, and that there were discrepancies between the various parts of the decision.

The reason was primarily that the Commission mentioned four violations relating to different periods and routes, whereas the grounds only mentioned one aggregate cartel. The cartel is qualified as an aggregate and permanent global violation concerning all periods and routes mentioned.

The General Court mentioned that the national courts were bound by the Commission's decision which requires that the decision is unambiguous. The national court must be able to identify the persons responsible for the violation and the scope of the violation. If not, the national courts cannot fix appropriate compensation to the persons who have suffered a loss due to the violation. 

The General Court annulled the Commission's decision due to these discrepancies.

On 17 March 2017, the Commission made a new decision imposing the same fines as in 2010. Consequently, the Commission maintained its decision that the airlines' conduct illegally restricted competition, but the Commission remedied the discrepancies. 

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