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Violations of EU antitrust law: Deutsche Bahn fined 48 million euros

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The EU Commission has imposed a fine of millions on Deutsche Bahn. The railway had admitted that it had made agreements with other railway companies about the distribution of customers.

In addition to Deutsche Bahn (DB), the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) and the Belgian Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges (SNCB) are also affected. "The companies were involved in a cartel in which the division of customers was concerned," announced the EU Commission on Tuesday. The three transport companies had admitted the allegations and agreed to a settlement.

Specifically, it was about freight traffic on certain railway corridors. ÖBB, DB and SNCB would have provided cross-border rail freight services by way of so-called freight sharing. With the freight sharing contract model, customers conclude a single multilateral contract with the railway company and pay a fixed flat rate for the service they require.

The Commission's investigation showed that DB, ÖBB and SNCB exchanged anti-competitive customer inquiries between 2008 and 2014 and provided each other with higher price offers. However, the SNCB was only involved from November 15, 2011.

Customer allocation system violates EU antitrust law

"A cartel between rail operators who offer rail freight services on important rail corridors throughout the EU runs counter to the goal of fair competition. Today's decision sends a clear signal that such anti-competitive agreements are unacceptable," said the executive responsible for competition policy. Vice-President of the Commission Margrethe Vestager.

DB emphasized that the customers had not suffered any economic disadvantages. "The accusation of the commission is not directed against the joint pricing, which is permissible under cartel law, but solely against the joint determination of which of the railways involved should lead the respective customers," explained a spokeswoman.

The ÖBB was completely waived the penalty on the basis of a leniency program. The fine for the SNCB, which has also been reduced, is 270,000 euros.

At around 48 million euros, DB has to pay by far the highest fine. On the one hand, she has to pay 50 percent more because she was involved in a cartel in 2012. On the other hand, the penalty would obviously have been much higher if the railway had not cooperated with the investigators. Because of the collaboration, the amount was reduced by 45 percent. The amount of the discount depends on when the companies offered the cooperation and to what extent this helps to prove a cartel. Another ten percent was withdrawn because the railway had admitted its participation.

dpa / fkr / LTO editorial team