Heathrow Airport will pay a £1.6m fine for restricting competition on parking prices in a lease with the operator of a Terminal 5 hotel.
The fine to be imposed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), comes after its investigation into the airport’s agreement with the Arora Group for the lease of Arora’s Sofitel hotel at Terminal 5. This included a clause restricting how parking prices should be set by Arora for non-hotel guests.
The CMA investigated whether the pricing restriction prevented the Arora Group from charging non-hotel guests cheaper prices than those offered at other car parks at the airport.
Following its investigation, the CMA has provisionally found that Heathrow and the Arora Group breached competition law. Both parties have formally accepted that this was a breach of competition law and have removed the pricing restriction, with Heathrow agreeing to settle the case and pay a £1.6m fine.
The Arora Group will not be fined, as it was granted immunity for coming forward under the CMA’s leniency programme. The programme is designed to encourage companies to co-operate if they think they might be involved in wrong-doing.
As part of its work, the CMA has sent letters to other airports and hotel operators warning against similar anti-competitive agreements.
This is the first time the CMA has taken competition law enforcement action in a case involving a land agreement.
Ann Pope, the CMA’s Senior Director for Antitrust, said: “Airport car parking charges are paid by millions of people and any agreements to restrict price competition are not acceptable. Competition law applies to land agreements at airport car parks in the same way as any other type of business arrangement. This fine should act as a strong warning to all companies that the CMA will take action to make sure businesses are free to compete on price.”