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Competition Commission to reconsider whether Eurotunnel acquired an enterprise when it bought three ferries from SeaFrance, launching MyFerryLink

08 January 2014
by Chris Price

The Competition Commission is to reconsider whether it had the right to order Eurotunnel to stop running cross channel ferry services, it has been revealed today.

The commission will look again at whether the Channel Tunnel firm broke merger-control rules when it bought three ferries belonging to doomed operator SeaFrance after it went into administation.

Eurotunnel launched MyFerryLink in August 2012 but in June last year, the commission ordered the company to stop running its Dover to Calais services within six months.

MyFerryLink's ship Berlioz

MyFerryLink's ship Berlioz

But in December, a Competition Appeal Tribunal told the commission it had to look again at the legal point of whether the acquisition involved a merger.

Eurotunnel argues this is not the case as the ferries are leased to a third party and says the Competition Commission has no jurisdiction in the case.

Spokesman John Keefe said: "The group has been expecting this announcement as the issue of the Competition Commission's jurisdiction has been the key point of contention throughout the process.

"The group is now considering how to respond to this next phase whilst continuing to ensure the best choice for customers." 

Cross channel service rivals P&O Ferries and DFDS/LD originally raised concerns to the Office of Fair Trading and its French counterpart, saying the service could lead to higher prices for travelers.

They argue Eurotunnel already owns a monopoly on the sub-sea route and should not be allowed to grab a share of the ferry market.

My Ferry Link runs services from Dover to Calais

My Ferry Link runs services from Dover to Calais

The Competition Commission ruled in June that by adding ferry services to its existing Channel Tunnel business, Eurotunnel would increase its market share to over half, leading to a price rise for cross-Channel passengers and freight customers.

After the tribunal quashed the ruling, now it must decide whether the firm bought the ferries as an enterprise.

The body aims to make a decision by the end of April.

The company is inviting responses by January 22.

MyFerryLink is operated by SCOP, a cooperative including many former employees of SeaFrance.

More than 50 jobs will be under threat if the service is closed.

Eurotunnel also operates passenger and freight train services through the Channel Tunnel between Folkestone and Calais.

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