Photographer: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg

Eurotunnel Loses U.K. Supreme Court Case Over Ferry Ban

  • Court reinstates ban on company's cross-channel ferry service
  • Eurotunnel bought three ferries from SNCF's SeaFrance in 2012

Groupe Eurotunnel SE lost its case at the U.K. Supreme Court over a British competition watchdog’s ban of the Paris-based company’s proposed cross-channel ferry service.

The court reinstated the Competition and Markets Authority’s 2013 ban on Eurotunnel operating ferries between Dover in England and France. The watchdog blocked the service for two years and set restrictions for another eight. Eurotunnel recently leased 2 ferries to rival company DFDS, the CMA said in an e-mailed statement.

The court victory was a bright spot for the regulator after months of criticism for being soft with the U.K.’s energy and banking industries. Last month the watchdog was assailed by lawmakers for allowing banks to "pull the wool over their eyes," following its review of the consumer checking accounts and small business loans.

"This ruling provides clarity on an important point of law, which will assist in assessing such transactions in future," said the CMA. "The CMA will consult relevant parties and seek to work constructively with Eurotunnel and DFDS in order to determine the appropriate next steps."

Eurotunnel acquired three ferries from French rail operator SNCF’s defunct SeaFrance ferry arm in 2012 with the aim of augmenting its London-to-continent rail service with Dover-to-Calais ship operations. The company had hoped to restart activity with its last ship, the freight only ferry Nord-Pas-de-Calais, but said in a statement following the ruling that it will offer the ship for sale.

"The Eurotunnel Group is extremely disappointed by this decision," the company said in the e-mailed statement.

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