European court overturns fines imposed on carriers for alleged air cargo cartel

16 / 12 / 2015

The General Court of the European Union has annulled fines totalling nearly €800m imposed by the European Commission against a range of airlines for the alleged fixing of airfreight charges.

According to the Court, "the grounds and the operative part of the decision are contradictory".

The airlines named in the original lawsuit were Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Cargolux Airlines International, Latam Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Deutsche Lufthansa, British Airways, SAS Cargo Group, Air France-KLM, and Martinair Holland.

One of the airlines in the lawsuit, Cargolux, issued the following statement: "Cargolux Airlines International welcomes the decision of the General Court of the European Union delivered today, annulling articles 1 to 5 of the European Commission’s 2010 decision in the alleged air freight cartel, including the full annulment of the €79.9m fine previously levied on Cargolux. 

"Cargolux will conduct a detailed analysis of the Court’s decision," it added.

In November 2010, Cargolux and a number of other airlines were fined by the European Commission for their participation in an alleged cartel in airfreight, following investigations initiated by the European Commission on 14 February 2006.

Scandinavian carrier SAS, which was fined €70.2m, stated: "SAS was fined €70.2m but appealed the decision in January 2011 to the European Court of first instance, the General Court. Today, nearly five years later, the European Court has annulled the European Commission’s decision including the fine."

Marie Wohlfahrt, General Counsel at SAS, continued: "The European Commission can appeal today’s judgment to the European Court’s court of highest instance, the Court of Justice of the European Union. If the European Commission chooses to appeal, SAS will continue to vigorously defend itself.

“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."

SAS will not recognise the return of €70m until the European Court’s judgment has become legally enforceable.