On 28 March 2012 the European Commission fined 14 international groups of companies a total of €169 million for participating in four distinct cartels aimed at fixing prices and other trading conditions for international air freight forwarding services, in breach of EU antitrust rules. From 2002-2007 the freight forwarders colluded on surcharges and charging mechanisms concerning important trade lanes, in particular the Europe-USA and the China/Hong Kong-Europe lanes. Participants and duration varied in each of the four cartels. Deutsche Post (including its subsidiaries DHL and Exel) received full immunity from fines under the Commission's 2006 leniency notice for all four cartels, as it was the first to reveal their existence the Commission.
In most cases, the freight forwarders took specific measures to conceal the cartel behaviour. In one of the cartels, the participants organised their contacts in a so-called "Gardening Club" and code names based on names of vegetables – such as asparagus and baby courgettes – were used when talking about fixing prices. In another, a specific yahoo email account was set up to facilitate exchanges between the cartel participants.