EU fines Stena Line £78,000 over cartel


TWO ferry companies which run services out of Ireland have been fined more than £120,000 by the European Commission for operating a cartel across the English Channel in 1992.

The two companies - Stena Line and Brittany Ferries - have been fined almost £78,000 and £47,000 respectively Stena Line, then known as Stena Sealink - was singled out as one of the main culprits in initiating the cartel.

The other chief "culprit" was, P & O which the Commission has fined £310,000.

The fines relate to a period late in 1992 when P&O, Stena Sealink Brittany Ferries, Sea France and North Sea Ferries agreed to impose a surcharge on English Channel freight shipments.

"To compensate for the effects of the devaluation of the British pound in September 1992, these companies agreed, in October, to similarly raise their tariffs," the Commission said in its findings reported yesterday.

The surcharge was introduced in November 1992, at identical rates and with the same method of calculation between Britain and France, for P & O, Stena Sealink, Sea France and British Ferries.

It was also introduced between Britain and Belgium, as well as the Netherlands, by P & O and North Sea Ferries.

The Commission said it considered the infringements lasted until the end of 1992. It said the introduction of the tariffs was only partly successful because the ferry companies' clients resisted the move. It also lasted a short time.

The Commission said that, for this reason, it had decided to impose moderate penalties on the companies, while establishing higher fines to P & O and Stcna. The Commission ruled that Sea France, Brittany Ferries and North Sea Ferries had followed P & O's and Stena's lead. It said the five companies continued, however, "to co ordinate themselves afterwards in order to assess their clients' reaction".

A spokesman for Brittany Ferries said last night that the company was very unhappy with the Commission's findings and was "consulting with its legal advisers to decide on the appropriate response".

Stena Link said it would wait until it got the full decision before commenting.

Sea France was fined £46,600 - the same as Brittany Ferries - while North Sea Ferries was lined £19.500.