EU re-imposes US$835 million cartel fine on air cargo firms

BRUSSELS — The European Union has re-imposed fines totalling US$835 million on 11 air cargo companies, including Air Canada, even though the EU's high court threw out the original case in 2015 on a procedural issue.

The European Commission said Friday that it has fixed the original error and re-established the fines because the antitrust case, as such, hadn't been addressed by the EU's General Court.

The Commission alleges that the companies colluded to fix the level of fuel and security surcharges between 1999 and 2006.

"Air Canada maintains that it has at all times respected all applicable laws with regard to competition. We intend to vigorously contest the European Commission's recent decision," spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an emailed statement.

It faces a fine of about US$22.6 million (21 million euros).

The biggest fines announced by the EU on Friday were US$197 million (182.9 million euros) levied on Air France and US$137 million (127.2 million euros) on its strategic partner KLM.

"Air France-KLM will analyze the new decision, and the advisability of appealing it," the group said in a statement. It added the fines had already been fully covered in its financial accounts since 2010, when the initial EU decision came in.

Another of the companies, Scandinavian Airlines, maintained that its division SAS Cargo had not participated in the global cartel, and that it will appeal the decision.

"We strongly question the European Commission's move to re-impose a decision that has already been annulled once," SAS spokeswoman Marie Wohlfahrt said. "SAS takes the competition rules extremely seriously and does not accept any breaches. We have a clear regulatory framework in place for compliance with competition law."

The Stockholm-based carrier said its 70.2 million euro fine will be recognized as a non-recurring expense in its earnings for the second quarter of 2016/2017.

British Airways now faces a US$112 million fine.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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