| Press Release - 16 June 2009
OFFICE OF FAIR TRADING ASKED TO INVESTIGATE
ALLEGED UNFAIR TRADING PRACTICES AT STANSTED
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has today (16 June 2009) written to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) asking it to investigate allegations of unfair trading practices operating at Stansted Airport in relation to its treatment of local taxi firms and small accommodation establishments such as local B&Bs and guest houses.
Over the years SSE has received a number of reports alleging anti-competitive and/or unfair behaviour by BAA Stansted towards these types of small local businesses and, with a view to obtaining a better understanding of the position, SSE carried out a questionnaire survey of local taxi firms and B&B/guest houses within a 15 mile radius of the airport.
A total of 28 replies were received to the questionnaire survey and, in writing to the OFT, SSE acknowledges that "Clearly there is a need for caution when considering the results from a sample of just 28 responses. However, the consistency of the matters complained about suggests that some credence should be attached to the complaints."
The complaints from local taxi firms were mostly about BAA's exclusive agreement with 'Chequer Cars' which provides this one taxi firm with a dedicated pick-up area directly outside the terminal building while all other taxi operators are subject to restrictions and are forced to pick up passengers from the short-stay car park and pay car parking charges.
The main complaints from local B&Bs and guest houses were against the accommodation booking desk at Stansted which (like Chequer Cars) apparently pays BAA for an exclusive franchise. The main complaints were:
* Charging local B&Bs and guest houses excessive rates of commission;
* Giving preferential treatment to airport hotels because a more expensive room rate provides a higher commission fee;
* Wrongly advising people looking for low-cost accommodation that the local B&Bs were fully booked and that only expensive hotel rooms were available.
SSE Campaign Director Carol Barbone said: "There are clearly some issues here which deserve to be investigated. Local taxi firms and family-run B&Bs obviously do not feel they are getting a fair crack of the whip from BAA at Stansted and hopefully this is something which the Office of Fair Trading will pursue on their behalf."
NOTE TO EDITORS
A copy of the SSE letter to the OFT is available here.
The results of the survey were originally submitted to the Competition Commission in connection with its market inquiry of BAA. However the Commission ultimately took the view that these matters were not directly related to BAA's common ownership of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports and so were not within the scope of its inquiry. That is why SSE is now passing the evidence over to the OFT.
Carol Barbone, Campaign Director, SSE: M 0777 552 3091, firstname.lastname@example.org