Will Thomas Cook bankruptcy help Brussels Airlines to avoid a fine by the Belgian Competition Authority?

Available languages: FR

Thomas Cook Belgium and Brussels Airlines may escape fines from the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) notwithstanding the conclusion of an agreement providing for anticompetitive practices according to the Investigation and Prosecution Service of the Authority.

In August 2017, the BCA had opened an investigation into potential anticompetitive practices resulting from the conclusion of a "Commercial Service Agreement" between Thomas Cook Belgium and Brussels Airlines.

Under such agreement, Thomas Cook Belgium had to purchase a certain number of seats to certain destinations from Brussels Airlines. Brussels Airlines, for its part, could not sell seats on certain flights to third party tour operators. The clauses of the agreement also included an obligation for Brussels Airlines to provide information to Thomas Cook Belgium on the development of the activities of third party tour operators.

In a press release of February 2020, the Investigation and Prosecution Service of the Authority announced having submitted a proposed decision to the College whereby it considers that these clauses foreclose the wholesale market of aircraft seats and provide for the exchange of sensitive commercial information.

However, the Investigation and Prosecution Service of the Authority proposes to the Competition College that it does not impose fines on the companies concerned because the agreement was never implemented and was terminated following Thomas Cook bankruptcy.

The parties now have the opportunity to make written submissions prior to the hearing before the College.

The College, that holds the final decision, will then decide in the coming months whether or not there has been an infringement of competition law and, if so, whether a fine should be imposed.