The Federal Government has ordered operators of airlines in the country to immediately suspend the 100 percent increase in the cost of airfares pending the outcome of an investigation.
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission ordered the airline operators to reverse the pricing regime and await the findings discontinue the current implementation of airfare increase pending the outcome of its probe.
Mr Babatunde Irukera, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Federal Government’s agency, made this known in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja.
An editorial by the New National Star had recommended a reversal of the airfare hike stressing that an antitrust agency should intervene.
According to Irukera, the interim order was in line with Sections 17(a),(e),(l),(s),18(3)(a), 157 and 158 of the FCCPAct.
He said that the commission’s investigations revealed that airline operators in supposedly association meetings discussed multiple industry-wide issues; particularly challenges experienced by their members.
Irukera said that credible information revealed that while attendees at the meeting did not arrive at a consensus, the meeting ended in a resolution that encouraged or consented to the coordinated conduct.
The Vice Chairman said the FCCPA prohibits conduct or any coordination between competitors including on the platform of trade associations.
His words, ”Specifically, Section 107 (1)(a) forbids competitors from fixing prices, while Section 108 prohibits any conspiracy, combination, agreement or arrangement between competitors in any manner that unduly restrains or injures competition.
”Coordination in increasing prices otherwise known as cartel is an unambiguous infringement of the FCCPA.
”The current and prevailing Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Air Transport Economic Regulations) in Regulation 18.15.2 (i) and (iii) expressly prohibits airlines from engaging in any contract, arrangement, understanding, conspiracy or combination in restraint of competition.
”This includes directly or indirectly fixing a charge, fee, rate, fare or tariff and any collusive action.
”The commission in addition to engaging the relevant stakeholders is entering and dispatching interim orders under Sections 17(a),(e),(l),(s),18(3)(a), 157 and 158 of the FCCPA.
”Prohibiting the performance or continuation of any agreement or arrangement associated with, or resulting from discussions, deliberations, debates, argument or resolutions of/at any meeting.
”Regarding any increase in airfares and or any conduct not necessarily directly in compliance, but in response to changes in the market on account of compliance by others.”
Irukera enjoined scheduled domestic airline operators to ensure strict and prompt compliance with the interim order pending the outcome of the commission’s investigation.
The domestic airline operators had embarked on the airfare increment by 100 per cent with effect from March 1.
The adopted resolution pegs the least economy ticket at N50,000.