Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Cleared in U.K. Price-Fix Probe

U.K. antitrust regulators closed an investigation into whether Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. (293) and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. illegally coordinated pricing on flights between Hong Kong and London.

The probe, involving the exchange of sensitive fare data from 2002 to 2006, was closed because there were “no grounds for action,” the Office of Fair Trading said yesterday in a statement. Cathay Pacific would have been immune from fines in the two-year-old case because it was a whistle-blower.

“During this investigation the OFT gathered and conducted a thorough review of a significant body of evidence,” the regulator said. “In light of the parties’ representations, which included additional evidence, and having carried out a number of further investigative steps, the OFT has concluded that there are no longer grounds for action.”

Virgin Atlantic said in a statement it was pleased the OFT concluded its investigations and that the case is now closed. The airline said it had maintained throughout that there had been no infringement of competition laws.

Virgin Atlantic received immunity in a separate antitrust case after admitting it collaborated with British Airways Plc to fix fuel surcharges on trans-Atlantic flights from 2004 until 2006. British Airways paid $628 million to cover related fines and class-action settlements.

Cathay Pacific has a long-standing policy of compliance with all applicable laws and cooperated with the OFT, the airline said in an e-mailed statement.

To contact the reporters on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net; Kari Lundgren in London at klundgren2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Scinta at cscinta@bloomberg.net

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