THE Federal Court has ordered Air New Zealand to pay $15 million in penalties in a price-fixing case launched by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The court found the carrier made deals with other airlines to fix the price of freight surcharges on flights from Hong Kong and Singapore to various locations including Australia between 2002 and 2007.
“These illegal price fixing agreements unfairly reduced competition for the transport cost for goods flown into Australia,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said today after the ruling.
“This decision sends a strong warning to overseas and domestic operators that the ACCC can and will continue to defend competition and the rights of Australian customers and businesses by taking action against anti-competitive conduct,” Court said.
Air New Zealand has been ordered to pay $11.5 million for charges imposed on flights from Hong Kong and $3.5 million for those from Singapore.
Since the ACCC first launched its investigation into the air cargo cartel in 2006, penalties totalling $113.5 million have been imposed against 14 airlines.
MEANWHILE, four airlines have settled a class action case in California alleging price fixing on flights from the US to Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Air New Zealand, China Airlines, EVA Airways and Philippine Airlines have reached agreement, in addition to eight others which had reached previous settlements with the US law firms of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, and Hausfeld.
The settling defendants have agreed to pay US$49.9 million plus US$750,000 costs.
Air New Zealand said it had consistently denied the allegations in the case and that the settlement was without any admission of liability.
The carrier said in reaching a settlement of US$400,000, it avoided the substantial ongoing costs of litigation.
The settlement is expected to gain final court approval in Sep.