More than 600 jobs look set to be saved after Channel tunnel operator Eurotunnel won an appeal overturning a competition ruling banning it from operating ferry services from Dover.
The Competition Commission told the group in June that it would have to stop its MyFerryLink service amid fears it could use its dominance of cross-Channel transport to hike prices. The decision threw MyFerryLink’s 600-strong workforce - including 100 staff at Dover - into uncertainty as Eurotunnel was given limited time to sell off its ferry services.
But the Competition Appeal Tribunal quashed the decision due to a technical legal point, which means MyFerryLink can operate as normal.
Eurotunnel hailed it as a “victory for the consumer”.
Jacques Gounon, chairman and chief executive of Groupe Eurotunnel, said: “We are delighted by the Competition Appeal Tribunal’s decision which recognises the benefits and practicalities of our presence in the maritime cross-Channel market.”
But the Competition Commission said it would consider the judgment and address the issues raised by the CAT, which could see the case resurrected.
Specifically, the CAT said it was uncertain if the commission was right to have reviewed the transaction at all, given that it was unclear if Eurotunnel had bought a going concern business when it acquired three boats from collapsed operator SeaFrance in 2012.
Eurotunnel has instead argued it bought just the bare assets.
The commission said on making its ruling earlier this year that it took action to protect consumers, as Eurotunnel’s MyFerryLink venture saw it control more than half of the cross-Channel market.
It said it believed Eurotunnel only bought the boats to prevent rival ferry group DFDS/LD from buying them at a cut price and driving down prices for passengers.
The watchdog also said it feared one of the current ferry operators was likely to quit in the short-term, which could hand Eurotunnel an even bigger share of the market.
Eurotunnel launched MyFerryLink last August and now runs 16 ferry crossings a day between Dover and Calais.
SeaFrance, which was owned by French state-owned rail firm SNCF, went into liquidation in November 2011 and Eurotunnel bought three of its four ferries for 60 million euro (£52 million).
P&O Ferries, DFDS and MyFerryLink all run ferries on the route.