Air France says it settles US civil price-fixing claims

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Air France and Dutch partners KLM and Martinair said on Monday they had reached a settlement with plaintiffs on a US civil class action suit brought against them for conspiring to fix air cargo rates.

"Pending its approval by the US court, the accord, in exchange for payment of 87 million dollars (69 million euros), ends all civil action against the three companies ... concerning the US air cargo market between 2000 and 2006," they said in a statement.

The three companies now operate as one group following their merger.

The civil class action suits were filed in 2006 after the US and European Union authorities launched a probe into price rigging of the US cargo market.

Four major airlines, including Air France-KLM and Cathay Pacific Airways, had to pay US fines worth 504 million dollars when they were found guilty in 2008 of conspiring to fix air cargo prices, officials said Thursday.

Air France-KLM paid the largest amount, 350 million dollars, to settle this criminal case, leaving the civil plaintiffs in the United States to pursue their claims.

US Justice Department officials said at the time the airlines plotted to "suppress and eliminate" competition by fixing cargo freight rates charged to customers for international air shipments.

© 2010 AFP

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