Three more airlines settle cargo cartel suit

Photo / Paul Estcourt
Photo / Paul Estcourt

Three more airlines have settled with the Commerce Commission in the long-running air cargo cartel case, paying $9.6 million in penalties, and leaving national carrier Air New Zealand as the final airline yet to do so.

In the High Court, Cathay Pacific was ordered to pay $3.4 million, Thai Airways International $2.7 million and MASkargo System Berhad, replacing Malaysian Airlines, $2.6 million for fixing air cargo prices between February 2000 and February 2006, the antitrust regulator said in a statement. The airlines were also ordered to pay the commissions' costs. That takes the total penalties to more than $35 million.

A Commerce Commission spokeswoman told BusinessDesk Air New Zealand is the only airline that hasn't settled, and is discussing a potential resolution with the regulator. Shares in the carrier fell 0.7 percent to $1.43 today.

"The penalties are a reminder to both New Zealand and overseas-based companies that colluding on prices is illegal and may result in substantial penalties under the Commerce Act," chairman Mark Berry said.

"The commission is committed to pursuing cartels that affect New Zealand markets."

The alleged price-fixing has been the subject of antitrust process worldwide, with big settlements from multi-national airlines in Europe and the U.S. Some of the alleged agreements appear to have been in place since 2001.

In 2006, air freight forwarding services in and out of New Zealand generated $450 million in revenue.

The commission has previously received penalties from British Airways, Cargolux Airlines, Emirates, Japan Airlines, Korean Air Lines, Qantas Airways and Singapore Airlines Cargo.

The regulator dropped proceedings against Garuda Indonesia, United Airlines and six Air New Zealand executives last year, and discontinued against two Qantas executives in February last year.

- BusinessDesk

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