Customer allocation in the rail sector. The Commission fines three companies

On 20 April 2021, the Commission fined Österreichische Bundesbahnen (“ÖBB”), Deutsche Bahn (“DB”) and Société Nationale des Chemins de fer belges / Nationale Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorwegen (“SNCB”) for breaching European antitrust rules through a customer allocation cartel concerning cross-border rail cargo transport services on “blocktrains” in the Union.

“Blocktrains” refers to a rail shipping system to transport cargo goods from one site to another without wagons being split up or stored on the way, so that railway companies can provide customers with a single overall price for the service required under a single multilateral contract. More particularly, from 8 December 2008 to 30 April 2014 ÖBB, DB and SNCB participated in the above-mentioned cartel by exchanging information on customer requests for competitive offers and providing each other with higher quotes to protect their respective business.

Therefore, the Commission fined ÖBB, DB and SNCB a total of €48 million. On the basis of the 2006 Guidelines on fines, the Commission took into account, in particular, the sales value achieved by the cartel participants for the services in question in 2013, the serious nature of the infringement, its geographic scope and the duration of each undertakings’ participation. Furthermore, under the 2006 Leniency Notice ÖBB received full immunity, while DB and SNCB benefited from a reduction for their cooperation with the Commission during the investigation, and all the three companies were granted a further 10% reduction under the 2008 Settlement Notice for having acknowledged their participation in the cartel.

Marco Stillo