Airlines should move swiftly to settle Australian price fixing class action

10 November 2010
Court action to secure compensation for Australian victims of the air cargo price fixing cartel should move ahead more quickly following the European Commission's decision overnight to fine 11 airlines $A1.1billion.

Class action law firm Maurice Blackburn which is representing businesses affected by the global price-fixing collusion welcomed the EC decision as further confirmation that airlines have acted illegally in their activities to fix the global price for various surcharges associated with international freight.

"The airlines have been trying to deny that there is a case to answer in this country," said Brooke Dellavedova, principal at Maurice Blackburn.

"Given Australia's geographic isolation and our reliance on international air freight there is no doubt that Australian businesses were affected by global price fixing."

Since the firm launched these proceedings almost four years ago almost 300 companies have signed up to the class action.

"We are alleging that between December 1999 and February 2006 some airlines colluded on some surcharges. 

"This European Commission decision, coupled with the recent decision by the Full Court of the Federal Court puts us in a stronger position to get a fair outcome for our clients who have suffered considerable loss at the hands of Qantas and other members of the price fixing cartel," said Ms Dellavedova.

Businesses affected can still join the class action. Any business which spent more than $20,000 on international freight between December 1999 and February 2006 is eligible.

Legal background

In December 2009 the Federal Court struck out the pleading in the Air Cargo matter, finding that it failed to properly allege certain important facts. Auskay, the applicant in the case appealed that decision to a Full Court of the Federal Court.

On 12 August 2010 the Full Court agreed that the necessary facts were sufficiently set out and the case can now more forward.

The next major step will be to obtain defences from the airlines.

The matter returns to the Federal Court in Melbourne on 22 November for a directions hearing.

Further background