German rail to seek multi-billion cartel damages from airlines

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) is to launch a “multi-billion dollar lawsuit” seeking damages from air cargo carriers found guilty of operating a global price-fixing cartel by the US Department of Justice, the European Commission and other international authorities.
Europe’s largest rail operator, which also owns logistics company DB Schenker, a top four player in global airfreight bookings, said in a short statement that the implicated airlines are “British Airways, Cargolux, Air France, Japan Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Martinair, All Nippon Airways, Qantas, SAS, Singapore Airlines and others”.
Christopher Rother, DB’s head of antitrust and competition law, will provide more details in a webinar due to be held this afternoon.
The short statement from DB follows a weekend report in the German newspaper Wirtschafts Woche that the rail operator would submit the suit to the regional court in Cologne today (Monday December 1).
According to Reuters, DB would be seeking the biggest portion of damages, up to Euro1.76bn euros ($2. bn), from Lufthansa, “which has escaped fines so far because it reported the practice to the authorities”.
Air Cargo News has approached a number of airlines for comment on the proposed lawsuit.
Air France said: "Please be informed that our companies’ policy is to never comment those subjects." 
Lufthansa Cargo referred to statements in the 2013 annual report: "Various cargo airlines, including Lufthansa Cargo AG and Swiss International Air Lines AG, were involved in a cargo cartel in the period between December 1999 and February 2006.
"Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Lufthansa Cargo AG and Swiss International Air Lines AG are at risk of civil claims for damages by customers in Germany, the UK, Norway, Australia, Israel and the Netherlands."
The  statement continued: "The plaintiffs are mostly claiming for unspecified damages. At present, it is not possible to give a concrete assessment of the outcome of the proceedings and of the number and amount of any other claims that may be brought.
"When evaluating the risk, it should nonetheless be kept in mind that the European Commission’s decision on the cargo cartel, which the plaintiffs in the civil lawsuits generally refer to, is still not definitive. Moreover, an expert economic opinion commissioned by Lufthansa Cargo AG and Swiss International Air Lines AG comes to the conclusion that the cartel did not inflict any actual damage on customers.
"Even if there were damages (i. e. allegedly higher cartel prices), the court will have to examine whether the plaintiffs did not pass them on to their own customers (in the case of the freight forwarders) or whether they were indeed passed on to them (in the case of the final customers)."
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