Brussels to make Express International and DB Schenker accountable

European Commission fines cargo train operators EUR 49 million for cartel

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The European Commission has imposed fines of EUR 49.15 million on Express Interfracht, part of the Austrian railway incumbent Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB), and Schenker, part of the German railway incumbent Deutsche Bahn (DB), for operating a cartel in breach of EU antitrust rules in the market for so-called cargo ‘blocktrain’ services. The three companies fixed prices and allocated customers for their “Balkantrain” and “Soptrain” services in Europe for nearly eight years. Kühne+Nagel of Switzerland, which is one of the largest transport and logistics companies in Europe, also took part in the cartel but was not fined as it was granted immunity under the Commission’s 2006 Leniency Notice for revealing the existence of the cartel. Express Interfracht and Schenker received reductions of their fines under the Leniency Notice for cooperating with the investigation. Since all three companies agreed to settle the case with the Commission, the fines imposed were further reduced by 10 per cent. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager who is in charge of competition policy said: “I find it very disappointing that a project to enhance transport efficiency and promote environmentally friendly cargo transport was derailed into a cartel. The European Union needs rail cargo markets to
function efficiently on the basis of effective competition and not to be hijacked by vested interests to the detriment of customers.”
The ‘blocktrains’ covered by the cartel, named “Balkantrain” and “Soptrain”, were jointly operated by Kühne+Nagel, Express Interfracht and Schenker. “Balkantrain” ensures the connection between Western and Central Europe with Southeast Europe. “Soptrain” connects Central Europe with Romania. In order to limit competition between them, the companies agreed on several restrictive practices:
• they agreed and allocated existing and new customers
as well as setting up a customer allocation scheme including a ‘notification system’
for new customers;
• they exchanged confidential information on specific customer requests;
• they shared transport volumes contracted by downstream customers;
• they coordinated prices directly by providing each other with cover bids in respect
of customers protected under their customer allocation scheme and coordinated
sales prices offered to downstream customers.
The infringement lasted from July 2004 to June 2012 for all companies.

The total fines imposed are as follows:
Reduction under the Leniency Notice / Reduction under the Settlement Notice / Fine (€)

K+N           100% / 10%  / € 0.-
EXIF            45% / 10%  / € 17,356,000.-
Schenker     30% / 10%  / € 31,798,000.-
Total                                 € 49,154,000.-