Supreme Court clears the way for a price-fixing lawsuit against Air Canada

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Supreme Court of Canada (1)

The decade-old lawsuit from three companies alleges price fixing on international cargo shipments between 2000 and 2006.

Supreme Court clears way for Air Canada the way for a class-claim against Air Canada and British Airways to continue by dismissing an interest by Canada’s largest airline.

Air Canada had looked to upset a 2017 Ontario Court of Appeal deciding that provincial courts could hear the class-action case even though it includes foreign claimants.

The decade-old lawsuit from three organizations alleges price fixing on international cargo shipments by major airlines between 2000 and 2006.

Linda Visser, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, says they have reached settlements totaling more than $29 million with all 14 defendants except Air Canada and British Airways.

“From an entrance to justice perspective, it’s a significant decision, because there are few jurisdictions that actually have class action regimes. And often these types of claims are not economical to bring on an individual basis,” Visser said.

The claim includes up to tens of thousands of class members, many of them exporters and freight forwarders that handle shipments running from flowers to organic products to zoo animals, she said.

The plaintiffs are Ontario’s Airia Brands Inc., Britain’s StarTech.com Ltd. Furthermore, Germany’s Quick Cargo Service.

Air Canada declined to remark, saying the case is before the supreme courts

“The case confirms that the Ontario courts are a place where foreign claimants from around the world can come and start class actions,” said Ranjan Agarwal, a class-action defense lawyer at Bennett Jones.

An appeal to the General Court of the European Union is pending.

Investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and Canada’s Competition Bureau into alleged price-fixing wrapped up without charges.

As of Dec. 31, 2016, Air Canada had set aside $17 million “relating to outstanding claims,” according to a management document on the company’s finances.

“This provision is an estimate based upon the status of investigations and proceedings at this time and Air Canada’s assessment as to the potential outcome for certain of them,” the document states.

Thursday’s dismissal by the Supreme Court orders Air Canada and British Airways to pay the three respondents’ costs.

Of the defendants that have settled, Air France — KLM and Deutsche Lufthansa AG paid the most, shelling out $6.5 million and $6.2 million respectively, according to Siskind’s law firm, which represents the plaintiffs.

Appeal court justice Sarah Pepall’s ruling from October of last year states Ontario courts have jurisdiction in the class action because there is a “substantial connection” between the claims and the province and the “absent foreign claimants” share “common issues” with the plaintiffs.