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US Department of Justice provides details on Qantas' price-fixing charges

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has provided details of Qantas Airways’ guilty plea on charges of price-fixing in international air cargo shipments, saying the breaches of antitrust laws took place over a six-year period.

A DOJ statement says the Australian carrier is charged with carrying out price-fixing activities with others by participating in meetings, conversations and communications on cargo rates for certain transpacific routes from “at least January 2000 to February 2006”.

It says Qantas is also charged with “agreeing, during those meetings, conversations and communications, on the cargo rates for certain transpacific routes to and from the United States; levying cargo rates in accordance with the agreements reached; and engaging in meetings, conversations and communications to monitor and enforce the agreed-upon rates”.

Qantas announced earlier today that it has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $61 million criminal fine in the USA for price fixing related to its air cargo operations.

The DOJ says that during the time period covered by the felony charges, which have been filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Qantas was the largest carrier of cargo between the USA and Australia, earning more than $600 million from its cargo flights.

Under its plea agreement, which remains subject to court approval, Qantas has agreed to co-operate with ongoing investigations by the DOJ and other antitrust regulators.

Qantas is the third major international airline to plead guilty to price fixing in recent months after British Airways and Korean Air, each of which in August agreed to pay $300 million in US criminal fines. Those airlines’ price-fixing activities covered both passenger and cargo flights while Qantas’ only relate to its cargo operations.

Assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ’s antitrust division, Thomas Barnett, says: “Qantas’ guilty plea sends a clear message that those who engage in price fixing and other forms of illegal collusion will pay a heavy price for their crimes. The shipment of consumer products by air transportation is critical to our global economy. Our investigation into this important industry will continue, and we will aggressively pursue those who engage in criminal conduct that harms American consumers.”

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