Carriers face $3.3bn legal action

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German logistics firm Deutsche Bahn (DB) Schenker is to seek $3.3 billion in damages from air cargo carriers found guilty by the US government’s Department of Justice and the European Commission of operating a global price fixing cartel, according to its owner, German railway company, Deutsche Bahn.

The implicated airlines are British Airways, Cargolux, Air France, Japan Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Martinair, All Nippon Airways, Qantas, Scandinavian Airlines, Swiss Airlines, Singapore Airlines, LAN Airlines, Cathay Pacific,  and Air Canada. 

DB Schenker will seek damages its estimate to be about $2.5 billion, with $1.19 billion coming from German courts and a further $370 million in US courts, this portion could increase to as much as $1.1 billion if, Deutsche Bahn says, “the court awards treble damages in the case”.

It adds that it is the latest international freight forwarder to pursue civil litigation in an effort “to recover significant damages from air cargo carriers that conspired to fix fuel and security surcharges from 1999 until 2006”. In August, Schenker filed a complaint against Air France, KLM, Martinair, Cargolux, Qantas, SAS and All Nippon Airways in the Eastern District court of New York.

According to Schenker, the complaint alleges that, in coordinating surcharge pricing for shipments to, from and within the U.S., the airlines violated US antitrust laws. All defendants named in the Schenker complaint pleaded guilty in Department of Justice proceedings, the logistics firm claims.

The German lawsuit, filed in December 2013 in Cologne, alleges defendants Lufthansa, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Swiss Airlines, Cargolux, SAS, Air Canada, and Qantas were involved in the same conspiracy affecting airfreight shipments worldwide. Air France declined to comment when contacted by Air Cargo Week (ACW). Other airlines ACW contacted, such as British Airways and Air Canada, were not available for comment. 

This action by Schenker follows its decision to opt out of some of the settlement agreements that had been made with regard to earlier legal action in the US with other class action plaintiffs and individual claimants. However, Schenker did agree to some settlements.

This year is ending in  similar fashion to how it began. January saw many of the same airlines fined by the Swiss Competition Commission for alledged price fixing. Fined a total of $12 million, they included Air France-KLM, Lufthansa,  Korean Air Lines, Polar Air Cargo, American Airlines, United Continental, Scandinavian Airlines, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Cargolux, Singapore Airlines and Japan Airlnes.

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