Virgin Atlantic to keep immunity from price-fixing penalties: OFT

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Virgin Atlantic will not lose its immunity from penalties for alleged price-fixing activity, according to a proposed decision put forward today by the UK Office of Fair Trading.

The OFT in May 2010 warned that Virgin Atlantic's immunity could be in jeopardy after the regulator was forced to withdraw criminal proceedings against four former and current British Airways executives due to the late emergence of previously-undisclosed electronic evidence.

The BA executives were last year acquitted of cartel charges related to the price-fixing of fuel surcharges with Virgin Atlantic on long-haul passenger flights between July 2004 and April 2006. Virgin Atlantic had been granted immunity from penalties after it relayed details of the exchanges to the OFT.

However, the trial fell to pieces when "a substantial volume of electronic material" was discovered by the OFT too late to include. The OFT said at the time that it would review the role played by Virgin Atlantic and this could affect its immunity.

But today, the OFT said it "has decided that Virgin Atlantic's conduct did not amount to non co-operation such as to warrant the revocation of Virgin Atlantic's immunity".

It added that the reasons behind this decision would be published "in due course".