On 7 March 2012, the Amsterdam District Court decided to suspend the civil proceedings relating to a claim for damages resulting from the air freight cartel.
In November 2010, the European Commission imposed fines amounting to EUR 800 million on various parties, including Air France, KLM and Martinair, for infringements of the EU competition rules in the area of air freight. Approximately 140 claimants subsequently sued these three airlines for damages.
All three airlines challenged the Commission's fining decisions in appeal proceedings before the EU General Court. In those proceedings, the General Court must, among other things, establish the facts on which the fines were based: what exactly did the airlines do and when and where did they do it?
According to the Amsterdam District Court, it is necessary to await the outcome of those factual determinations in order to proceed in the civil case. Without knowing the answers to these questions, it is impossible to assess the airlines' exact liability to the claimants. The fact that Air France/KLM had submitted a leniency request to the Commission, thereby acknowledging its participation in the cartel, did not affect this conclusion, because it is also a matter of what and when that participation actually took place.
The EU appeal process in cartel cases (including a further appeal to the EU Court of Justice) can easily extend over more than five years. The claimants will therefore have to bide their time.