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Last Updated: Monday, 28 June, 2004, 19:03 GMT 20:03 UK
Ferry firm in price-fixing claim
A SpeedFerries catamaran
SpeedFerries is accusing its established rivals of price-fixing
The newest operator of cross-Channel ferries is demanding an investigation into price-fixing claims.

SpeedFerries is accusing other companies of running a cartel, by having identical price systems, and has instructed its lawyers to take action.

Seafrance, P&O, Eurotunnel and Hoverspeed all refute the allegations.

Chief executive Curt Stavis said a complaint would be filed with the Office of Fair Trading and the EU's Competition Directorate-General.

'Co-ordinated pricing'

The Danish firm launched its cut-price catamaran service between Dover and Boulogne in May.

It said at the time it wanted to revolutionise the cross-Channel industry, offering cheaper tickets to those who book earliest, similar to the budget airlines.

But on Monday it said it had noticed in its first month "co-ordinated pricing" among some of its rivals.

The company claims there is enough evidence to justify high-level investigations into what it believes is a cross-Channel cartel.

Curt Stavis
The chief executive of SpeedFerries is determined to press his case
Curt Stavis, chief executive of SpeedFerries, said: "The English Channel is the only place in the world where you have this ridiculous thing about the price being totally dependent on the duration of your stay.

"This is very unusual, and when you have something very unusual which is identical from Eurotunnel and to most of the ferry operators, how will you explain this?

"And that's a question we're going to put forward."

Last year the offices of P&O and Eurotunnel were raided by competition officials from the European Commission following passenger complaints over prices.

The investigation is still ongoing.

Rivals reject claims

However, SpeedFerries' rivals have firmly rejected the company's allegations.

Eurotunnel said it had just cut some of its prices, while P&O said the cross-Channel market was now more competitive than it had ever been.

Hoverspeed also denied any form of cartel, saying it had long championed the need for companies to offer clear and transparent pricing for all customers.

And SeaFrance said the vast range of prices available in the market made it obvious there was no price collusion between different companies.

Norfolk Line was unavailable for comment on Monday.

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