Purple Parking (PP) and Meteor Parking (MP) brought a claim against Heathrow Airport (HA) alleging that HA had breached the Chapter II Prohibition of the Competition Act 1998 by limiting access to the Heathrow airport forecourts for parking companies who provided valet parking services.
Previously PP, MP and HA had all offered valet parking services in the airport forecourt. However, HA, which owns the airport, changed the arrangement so that HA was the only operator in the forecourt – other parking companies had been relocated to the airport car parks with an additional charge. It was accepted by all parties that HA had a dominant position at the airport due to its controlling position over the access to the airport’s facilities. The High Court therefore had to decide whether HA’s actions amounted to an abuse of that dominance.
The High Court ruled that HA had breached the Competition Act as its actions placed PP and MP at a competitive disadvantage due to the fact that:
- HA was left as the only valet parking supplier on the airport forecourts;
- presence on the forecourt was extremely advantageous to an operator due to the benefits it offered to customers over a car park based service;
- the car park operators would not be offering a similar product to HA so competition with HA on the forecourt was impossible; and
- there would effectively be a monopoly on the forecourts leading to risks and detriment for the consumer.
So next time you’re flying from Heathrow, it’s something to watch out for in case you think you’re being taken for a ride.