EU recommended to uphold 2003 BA anti-trust ruling

The European Court of Justice should dismiss a British Airways appeal against a ruling that condemned it for paying British travel agents a sales commission plus a bonus linked to the growth of annual ticket sales, an adviser to the EU high court said today.

The 2003 ruling – including a fine of £4.6m (€6.7m) – should stand as BA’s appeal has no merit, EU Advocate General Julianne Kokott said in an opinion.

The Luxembourg-based EU high court normally follows the advice of the advocate general.

In December 2003, the EU high court found BA guilty of abusing its dominant position in the market for air travel services.

It said paying British travel agents a basic commission for selling BA tickets plus a performance bonus based on the growth of annual BA ticket sales was unfair, for it locked travel agents into selling more BA tickets at the expense of tickets of its rivals.

BA’s main rival – Virgin Atlantic Airways – complained about the practice to the EU executive Commission, which took BA to court.

In its appeal, BA contested the 2003 finding on eight points of EU law, none of which were supported by Kokott, who previewed the appeal for the EU high court and whose views are usually followed in a final ruling.

“Since none of BA’s grounds of appeal have any prospect of success,” Kokott wrote, “I conclude that its appeal should be dismissed in its entirety.”

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