New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has started legal action against 13 airlines for what it believes is “extensive and long-term cartel activity in the air cargo market”.
The authority claims the airlines, including Air New Zealand, Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific
have been colluding to raise cargo charges by imposing fuel surcharges for seven years. If found guilty, the airlines could face similar action, including heavy fines, as already imposed in the United States, Europe and Australia.Paula Rebstock, chair of the Commerce Commission, told the Financial Times that the extra cargo charges caused extensive harm to the New Zealand economy.
“New Zealand is a long way from its overseas markets and so the harm to our economy and our ability to compete internationally will have been disproportionately greater than in other jurisdictions in which the conduct took place,” she said.
“Many New Zealand businesses and every consumer will have been directly affected by the increased air freight costs over many years. It will have resulted in increased costs for exporters and importers and higher overall prices for many consumer goods”.
BA and Qantas were fined by the Australian competition authorities in October over their roles in an international conspiracy to fix air cargo charges. They and other carriers have also been fined by the US justice department over similar activity.
The commission said the case could involve up to 60 airlines and many individuals but it had decided to focus on those airlines which had the greatest impact on New Zealand’s economy.