EU set to fine ferries over cartel


THE European Commission may fine five ferry companies tomorrow for allegedly operating a price cartel in 1992 European Union sources said yesterday. Two of the companies operate services from Ireland.

Commission sources said the EU executive was due to impose penalties on the ferry operations of Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co, Stena Sealink, Brittany Ferries, Sea France and North Sea Ferries.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that EU anti trust investigators had found the companies agreed to impose a surcharge on cross channel freight shipments in 1992 to compensate for the effects of the devaluation of the British pound.

The commission launched an inquiry following a complaint from freight companies about the surcharge.

A spokesman for Stena Line (formerly Stena Sealink) declined to comment, saying the company would wait until the commission announced its decision tomorrow. A Brittany Ferries spokesman said the company was unable to comment until today.

It is understood that the companies involved have all disputed the allegations. The Wall Street Journal said the size of the fines would not be decided until just before the commission met tomorrow.

However, because the alleged cartel only lasted a short time, they were unlikely to be in the same league as the big fines imposed in recent cartel cases.

In the case of one of the ferry companies operating from Ireland, it has been speculated that the fine could be about £80,000.

The commission can impose fines rising to 10 per cent of turnover.