Airlines fined $100 million after ACCC investigation

AN AUSTRALIAN Competition and Consumer Commission investigation targeting cartel conduct among a number of international airlines has now netted almost $100 million in penalties.

The Federal Court has slapped Thai Airways International Public Company with a $7.5 million fine for breaching cartel provisions of the Trade Practices Act.

It comes a week after the Federal Court hit Singapore Airlines Cargo and Cathay Pacific Airways with $23 million in penalties for similar conduct.

Thai Airways became the 13th international airline to admit to engaging in cartel conduct.ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the $98.5 million in penalties already ordered by the court was the biggest arising from a single ACCC investigation.

The ACCC's trial against Air New Zealand and Garuda Indonesia continues before Justice Perram in the Federal Court in Sydney.

The ACCC action against Thai Airways, which was launched in 2009, formed part of larger cartel proceedings taken against a number of international airlines.

As part of the settlement, Thai Airways admitted to engaging in price-fixing for a fuel surcharge, security surcharge and customs fee for the carriage of freight from Indonesia to Australia.

In delivering the judgment, Justice Katzmann said: "Thai accepts that the contraventions were very serious. This was deliberate, systematic conduct involving senior staff at the Thai station in Indonesia. For the understandings to be effective they required the participation of all players in the market including Thai."

Thai Airways was also hit with $500,000 in court costs.

Mr Sims said the judgment sent a strong signal to the business community that cartel conduct would not be tolerated.

In August the ACCC launched proceedings against Renegade Gas Pty Ltd and Speed-E-Gas (NSW) Ltd and then the Yazaki Corporation for alleged cartel conduct.

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