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Archived — British Airways pleads guilty in Air Cargo price-fixing conspiracy

OTTAWA, October 30, 2009 — The Competition Bureau announced today that British Airways Plc has pleaded guilty in the Federal Court and has been fined $4.5 million for participating in an air cargo cartel affecting Canada.

British Airways admitted to fixing surcharges on the sale and supply of international air cargo exported on certain routes from Canada between April 2002 and February 2006.

"The fines obtained as a result of our investigation into the air cargo price-fixing conspiracy reflect the serious nature of this behaviour," said Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition. "The Bureau is committed to uncovering such anti‑competitive agreements that harm Canadians, and taking criminal action against the conspirators."

The Bureau's investigation has benefited from the cooperation of British Airways and certain other air cargo carriers through the Bureau's Leniency Program. This program creates incentives for parties to address their criminal liability by co-operating with the Bureau in its ongoing investigation and prosecution of other alleged cartel participants.

British Airways' penalty brings the total fines in the Bureau's air cargo inquiry to more than $14.6 million. Previously, Air France, KLM, Martinair and Qantas each pleaded guilty to fixing air cargo surcharges for shipments on certain routes from Canada. The Bureau's investigation into the alleged conduct of other air cargo carriers continues.

Under the Competition Act, any agreement between competitors to fix prices that results in an undue lessening of competition in Canada is a criminal offence. Current available penalties for price-fixing include fines of up to $10 million per count, imprisonment to a maximum term of five years, or a combination of both. With recent amendments to the Competition Act, effective March 12, 2010, the maximum penalties for offences under the conspiracy provision of the Act will be increased to $25 million per count and imprisonment for up to fourteen years, or a combination of both.

The Competition Bureau is an independent law enforcement agency that contributes to the prosperity of Canadians by protecting and promoting competitive markets and enabling informed consumer choice.

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Competition Bureau
Telephone: 819-997-4282
Toll free: 1-800-348-5358
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