UKCC IGNORES 7 YEARS OF EVIDENCE AND INVENTS “CONCERNS” IN DESPERATE ATTEMPT TO JUSTIFY PREDETERMINED RULING
Ryanair, Europe’s only ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC), today (28 Aug) confirmed that it will appeal the UK Competition Commission (UKCC) final report which wrongly found that Ryanair, through its 7 year old minority (29.8%) shareholding in Aer Lingus, “had led or may be expected to lead to a substantial lessening of competition between the airlines on routes between Great Britain and Ireland”. This baseless claim is manifestly disproven by 7 years of evidence and by the European Commission’s recent (Feb 2013) ruling that competition between Ryanair and Aer Lingus has “intensified” since 2007.
Under EU law, the UKCC has a duty of sincere cooperation with the EU, and cannot contradict or reach different conclusions to the European Commission’s findings. Inexplicably, today’s report by the UKCC infringes this legal duty by ignoring and contradicting the recent findings of the European Commission that:
“Aer Lingus and Ryanair compete on a greater number of routes compared to the 2007 Decision”, “there is significant competitive interaction between the Parties”, and “evidence collected by the Commission in the market investigation has also confirmed that the competitive relationship between Ryanair and Aer Lingus has at least persisted, if not increased, since 2007”.
In addition, the UKCC has inexplicably dismissed Ryanair’s unprecedented remedies package which comprehensively addressed the UKCC’s three invented “concerns”. For example, the UKCC rejected Ryanair’s offer to unconditionally sell its minority stake to any other airline that makes a bid for Aer Lingus and obtains acceptances from 50.1% of Aer Lingus’ shareholders. Ryanair also offered to support Aer Lingus’ rights issues and any disposal of Aer Lingus’ Heathrow slots, but these simple and effective remedies were also rejected by the UKCC.
The UKCC’s manifestly unjust ruling demonstrates that it did not conduct any fair investigation and that it has now merely announced what was its pre-determined conclusion. Ryanair will appeal the UKCC’s unlawful ruling to the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal. In any event, until the completion of Ryanair’s appeal to the EU courts against the European Commission’s February 2013 prohibition decision, the CC cannot lawfully impose any remedies on Ryanair.
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said:
“This report by the UKCC is bizarre and manifestly wrong but also entirely expected. From the first meeting with the UKCC it has been clear to us that Simon Polito’s and Roger Davis’ minds had been made up in advance and no truth or evidence was going to get in the way of their story. This prejudicial approach to an Irish airline is very disturbing, coming from an English government body that regards itself a model competition authority.
Polito’s and Davis’ ignoring of evidence, their conduct of a manifestly unfair investigation, their omission of all the substantial body of evidence that conclusively disproves their case, and their rejection of Ryanair’s unprecedented undertakings (which patently address their three invented future concerns), all in a misguided pursuit of their pre-determined conclusion, demonstrate that this process was not a competition investigation but merely a corrupt and politically biased charade.
While Ryanair is one of the UK’s largest airlines, Aer Lingus has a tiny presence in the UK, serving just 6 routes to the Republic of Ireland, a traffic base that has declined over the past 3 years and now accounts for less than 1% of all UK air traffic. This case, involving two Irish airlines where one (Aer Lingus) accounts for less than 1% of the UK’s total air traffic and concerns very few UK consumers, is yet another enormous waste of UK taxpayer resources from a body which took no action whatsoever when the two main UK airlines (BA and bmi) merged. It would appear to be a case of one rule for the UK airlines but an invented set of rules for two Irish airlines.