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High Court Rules: Ryanair Cannot Sue Italian Watchdog in Ireland

 |  June 4, 2024

The Irish High Court has ruled that Ryanair cannot pursue its lawsuit against the Italian competition and antitrust authority, Autorità Garante Della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM), in Ireland. This decision marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing antitrust dispute involving the airline.

The case, which has attracted considerable attention, stems from a search of Ryanair’s Dublin headquarters by approximately 30 officers, including members from the AGCM, on March 8th. This action was part of an investigation initiated by the AGCM in September, following complaints from two Italian travel agency associations and a consumer association regarding Ryanair’s online ticket sales practices.

Allegations against Ryanair suggest that the airline’s online system prevents travel agencies from accessing tickets at the lowest fares directly through its website, instead directing them to a global distribution system. This practice, the complainants argue, stifles competition and constitutes an abuse of Ryanair’s dominant market position. Ryanair has consistently denied these allegations.

In response to the search, Ryanair launched legal proceedings in Ireland, challenging the validity of the search warrant obtained by the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and seeking to quash it. The airline also sought declarations that the material seized during the search was tainted by illegality, inadmissible and should not have been removed from Ireland.

Read more: Ryanair Wins Legal Battle Over State Aid to Air France-KLM

Central to Ryanair’s argument was the claim that the judge who issued the warrant was not informed of two key Italian rulings that, according to Ryanair, supported its position that it was not abusing its dominant market position.

However, Justice Max Barrett, presiding over the case, determined that the Irish courts lacked jurisdiction to hear the case against the AGCM. This decision was based on the EU regulation known as Brussels Recast, which governs jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters but does not apply to revenue, customs, administrative matters, or the liability of the State for acts and omissions in the exercise of State authority.

Following this ruling, the proceedings against the AGCM were dismissed for want of jurisdiction, while the case against the CCPC was adjourned to address preliminary issues, with a full hearing scheduled for July.

Martin Hayden SC, representing Ryanair, noted that his client has also initiated legal proceedings in Italy, which are unrelated to the search warrant issue.

Source: Breaking News