Federal Court dismisses airlines' challenge to ACCC enforcement powers

3 April 2009

The Federal Court in Melbourne has dismissed the applications by Singapore Airlines Pte Ltd, Singapore Airlines Cargo Pte Ltd and Emirates challenging the validity of compulsory notices issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The notices, issued under section 155 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 in 2007 and 2008, required production of documents and information as part of the ACCC's investigation into alleged international air cargo cartel activity.  Singapore Airlines and Emirates challenged those notices in proceedings brought in April 2008 and heard in July 2008.  Both refused to produce many of the documents sought by the ACCC. 

ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, welcomed the decision: "The ability to compel production of documents and information in relation to cartel investigations is an essential part of protecting Australian consumers.  Arguments that we cannot investigate cartels formed outside Australia affecting Australians, or that the market in which goods are carried to Australia is not one to which the Act applies, are against the objects of the Act and the welfare of Australians." 

To date, proceedings against six other airlines have been concluded with joint submissions to the Federal Court, resulting in penalties totalling $41 million.  None of those airlines contended that the Act did not apply to their conduct. 

Proceedings were also instituted on 22 December 2008 in the Federal Court in Sydney against Singapore Airlines. In those proceedings, the ACCC alleges that Singapore Airlines companies, between 2001 and 2005, made arrangements or arrived at understandings with other international air cargo carriers fixing the price of fuel surcharges and security surcharges applied to air cargo carried by Singapore Airlines and other airlines. 

The ACCC continues to investigate other airlines.

Release number: 
NR 071/09
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