German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) is filing a billion-euro lawsuit against more than a dozen airlines over allegations of running a ‘global cargo cartel.’ Germany’s Lufthansa is reportedly the main target.
DB’s cargo unit said on Sunday that it was claiming damages of nearly 2 billion euros from at least 13 airlines, including Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, and British Airways.
The state-run railway operator is accusing the carriers of conspiring to push up airfreight fees. A spokesman for Deutsche Bahn told German business weekly Wirtschaftswoche that the company was seeking 1.76 billion euros ($2.19 billion) in compensation for the damages sustained by its cargo subsidiary Schenker from 1999-2006.
The price-fixing scheme could amount to one of the “biggest cartels in business history,” he said,
He said DB would file the suit to the regional court in the western German city of Cologne, home of the Lufthansa headquarters. The company already announced in August that it was filing a similar suit in New York.
DB won’t let Lufthansa off the hook
The price-fixing scandal first blew up seven years ago, and in 2010 Europe’s competition watchdog fined 11 airlines, including Air France-KLM and British Airways, nearly 800 million euros for coordinating their action on fuel and security fees.
However, the ruling also allowed victims of the cartel to file separate claims, which is why Deutsche Bahn is now revisiting the lawsuit. It is seeking the lion’s share of the compensation from Lufthansa, which was let off the hook four years ago, because it reported the practice to the authorities.
Deutsche Bahn operates in more than 130 countries and transports nearly 400 million tons of cargo annually by land, rail, sea and air.