12 May 2011

$6.5 million cargo fine for Qantas

12:58 pm on 12 May 2011

The High Court in Auckland has formally ordered Qantas to pay a record fine of $6.5 million for price-fixing.

The Commerce Comission says it stems from breaches of the Commerce Act found during an investigation of a cargo industry cartel.

The airline said in March it would pay the fine, the amount of which

was decided on in a confidential settlement reached with the commission.

The commission says it was noted by Justice Allan on Wednesday that the starting point for the penalty was $13 million.

It says there was a 50% deduction for the high level of cooperation Qantas gave the investigation.

The commission is taking legal action against eight airlines including Air New Zealand.

Qantas, Cargolux, and British Airways have reached settlements with the Commerce Commission after they admitted participating in price-fixing, but Qantas' fine needed to be set by the court.

Air NZ and others including Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Emirates are defending the charges.

Preliminary hearing

The Commerce Commission's case against eight other airlines for price-fixing in the air cargo market is underway in the High Court at Auckland.

Eight airlines, including Air New Zealand, face legal action over claims of collusion to raise the price of freight by imposing fuel and security surcharges between 2000 - 2006.

Radio New Zealand's business editor says the case will define the market in New Zealand and whether inbound air cargo services are part of it.

Airlines argue that relevant markets for these services are not located here and therefore the commission has no jurisdiction.

The commission contends that price-fixing is price-fixing and the effects of collusion on inbound air cargo services would be most keenly felt by consumers in New Zealand.

It also says the defendants supply their cargo services here, and the demand for those services also comes from here.

The outcome of the case will set the outline for the price-fixing claims, which are due in court in July next year.