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EC regulators charge three airlines with price fixing

Regulators from the European Union have charged three more airlines this week with violation of competition rules. The three airlines in question are Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, and the Malaysian Airlines System.

The regulators filed the charges after completing a probe into charges that the airlines indulged in price fixing. A statement from the three airlines said the regulators had formally filed charges against them. The filing of charges is a preliminary step, however; the airlines have a time frame of two weeks within which to file their defense in front of the commission. Only after that would the commission consider the punitive measure of imposing a fine.

Responding to the charges, All Nippon Airways issued a statement that it would take a look at the regulators’ findings and file a response „in due course.” Malaysian Air, on the other hand, said it would be looking for legal advice, as it was the carrier’s policy to be in compliance with all laws that applied to it. The three airlines in question are not the only ones to be charged by the European Commission’s regulators. Last week, EC regulators charged eight other carriers – British Airways, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, the Air France-KLM Group, Cargolux Airlines, and the SAS Group.

Among European carriers, the German carrier Deutsche Lufthansa has succeeded in avoiding investigation because of conditional immunity from the commission for working with it. Around 12 airline carriers have been targets of investigations by both European as well as American regulators this year. The investigations are aimed at finding out if the cargo businesses of these carriers were involved in rigging the prices of fuel surcharges.

So far this year, EC regulators have levied record amounts by way of fines for cartel cases against a range of companies, from airlines to glass manufacturers. The fine amount collected so far this year stands at a whopping €3.3 billion ($4.8 billion). Generally in Europe, cartel fines stand at about 2 to 3% of a company’s annual sales, with the ceiling being limited to 10%. (themoneytimes)