Logistics firm and freight forwarder DB Schenker, a subsidiary of German rail giant Deutsche Bahn, filed civil lawsuits on Dec. 1 in the U.S. and Germany against a total of 15 airlines, claiming US$2.5 billion in damages related to the fixing of surcharge prices during the period between 1999 and 2006.
The U.S. suit, claiming about US$370 million, names seven carriers: Air France, All Nippon Airways, Cargolux, KLM, Martinair, Qantas and SAS. The U.S. Department of Justice charged all seven with violating antitrust laws by fixing the prices of fuel and security surcharges, and all seven pleaded guilty. Deutsche Bahn said that the court could choose to award triple damages, in which case the total could rise to $1.1 billion.
The German suit, claiming about US$2.2 billion, names 11 carriers: Air Canada, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Cargolux, Japan Airlines, LAN, Lufthansa, Qantas, SAS, Singapore Airlines and Swiss Airlines. DB Schenker charges that the carriers were involved in a conspiracy to fix surcharge prices.
In both suits, DB Schenker is seeking not only compensation for damages but also for the interest accrued on those damages since alleged activity occurred. DB Schenker has already taken part in class action lawsuits in this matter, and has settled with some carriers, however it has not reached agreements with the carriers named in the suits launched on Monday.
The price-fixing activities mentioned in the lawsuits involved two types of collusion: 1) agreements by the airlines to adopt a methodology and an amount of surcharges for fuel and security, and 2) a collective refusal to pay “standard commissions on the surcharges they were adding to base rates.”
“As result of the class actions, many airlines settled with their customers,” said Christopher Rother, Deutsche Bahn’s head of group regulatory, competition and antitrust. “At DB Schenker we had two options – we could either accept that the award was fair and reasonable and get our share of the quota of the settlement, which we did in some cases; or in other cases we felt that the damages were not enough and we opted out of those cases. These cases we are announcing today are those where we were unable to settle because their offers were inadequate.”
Information about the ongoing developments regarding the two lawsuits can be found at aircargocartelclaims.com.