DFDS and Eurotunnel seem to fundamentally disagree about how to interpret the decision that was handed down by the British Competition Appeal Tribunal on Wednesday. The Tribunal remitted the decision to the British Competition Commission, which this summer banned Eurotunnel from operating ferries out of Dover on the English Channel, citing as its sole reason the fact that the Commission must decide whether it even has the legal jurisdiction to process the case.
As such, DFDS CEO Niels Smedegaard remains hopeful, as the Competition Appeals Tribunal agrees with the Competition Commission on all points in the case, he tells ShippingWatch after reviewing the case briefly with the carrier's attorneys.
The battle is not over yet
"This is solely about whether the British Competition Commission is authorized to process the case. That's why the Appeals Tribunal has remitted the case, to discern whether the Commission believes it has reached a correct decision. And this concerns the question of whether Eurotunnel acquired a company - or part of company - or whether it merely acquires assets."
"So the case has not been finalized. It's of course a shame that it's now being remitted, and that it will be delayed. But this in no way changes the way we view this case. The battle is not over yet, so DFDS and Eurotunnel will just have to be patient."
On June 6th of this year the British Competition Commission banned Eurotunnel from operating ferry activities out of Dover through subsidiary carrier My Ferry Link, and the ban was set to become effective six months from this date at the latest. The decision was based on a weakening of the competition on Dover-Calais, which is the shortest and thus also the most attractive ferry route on the Channel, as well as on other passenger and freight routes on the Channel.
Niels Smedegaard is convinced that the British Competition Commission will reach the same decision as its French counterpart in terms of the authority's jurisdiction to handle the case.
"Of course there's always a process-related risk in a case like this. We're disappointed that we didn't get a final decision, but we remain quite hopeful and calmly await the outcome of this case," says Niels Smedegaard, who expects that it will be "a few months" before a final decision is ready:
"There were 11 conditions that the British Competition Commission had to deal with before. Now there's just one, and we are confident that the British Competition Commission will do a good job in this case. Fortunately, developments in the English Channel are going the right way and we're conquering market shares."
Eurotunnel: A victory
Groupe Eurotunnel SA says in press release that the group is highly satisfied with the Competition Appeal Tribunal's decision on this matter, as it maintains the current level of competition in the Channel.
“This is a victory for the consumer. We are delighted by the Competition Appeal Tribunal’s decision which recognizes the benefits and practicalities of our presence in the maritime cross-Channel market,” says Jaques Gounon, CEO of Groupe Eurotunnel, in a press release. The point of contention - My Ferry Link - is owned by Eurotunnel.
Download the full-length decision here.