‘Intelligence received’ suggesting airports breaking competition law – regulator

UK airports could be breaking competition law, according to information received by a regulator.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has written to airport operators warning of “serious consequences” for illegal information sharing.

The letter, produced jointly with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), stated: “The CMA has recently received intelligence to suggest that some UK airport operators might not always be complying with competition law.

“The CAA is aware of this intelligence and shares the CMA’s serious concerns about the possibility of competition law breaches in the sector.”

Sharing confidential information with competitors “may seem tempting” to reduce uncertainty but this “may be illegal”, according to the regulators.

They wrote that it was “appropriate” for airports to consult publicly before modifying charges but they “must not” share additional information with each other or discuss “pricing or competitive strategies”.

Giving rivals insight into future commercial plans could reduce competition, leading to higher prices and poorer service, airports were told.

“This is unfair to customers (both airlines and end consumers), many of whom have also faced and continue to face significant challenges due to the pandemic and other cost pressures,” the letter stated.

The regulators did not specify which airports it had concerns about, but warned they may take “formal enforcement action” if further intelligence of suspected competition law breaches was received.

Consequences for businesses that break competition law include fines of up to 10% of worldwide turnover, director disqualifications of up to 15 years and criminal prosecutions of individuals involved.