The European Commission has fined three European railway companies a total of €48 million for breaching EU antitrust rules.
The three companies are Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB), Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Société Nationale des Chemins de fer belges / Nationale Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorwegen (SNCB).
The companies participated in a customer allocation cartel, which concerned cross-border rail cargo transport services on blocktrains on key rail corridors in the EU.
The three companies admitted their involvement in the cartel and agreed to settle the case.
The infringement concerned cross-border rail cargo transport services in the EU provided by ÖBB, DB and SNCB under the freight sharing model and carried out in “blocktrains”.
Blocktrains are cargo trains shipping goods from one site, such as the production site of the vendor of the transported goods to another site, such us a warehouse, without being split up or stopped on the way.
Under the freight sharing model, which is a contract model foreseen in international railway law, railway companies performing cross-border rail services provide customers with a single overall price for the service required under a single multilateral contract.
The Commission’s investigation revealed that the three railway companies coordinated by exchanging collusive information on customer requests for competitive offers and provided each other with higher quotes to protect their respective business. The companies thus participated in a customer allocation scheme, which is prohibited under EU competition rules.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Rail transport of cargo is vital for a sustainable economy model. Fair competition is important to provide customers with the best offer when using sustainable transport. A cartel between key operators offering rail cargo services on essential rail corridors across the EU goes fundamentally against this objective. Today’s decision sends a clear signal that this type of collusive behaviour is not acceptable.”
Photo by David-Payr