When is competition not competition? When ferry companies clash over market interests in crossing the Straits of Dover. Sea France Ferries, part of the nationalised French rail network, went into liquidation in 2012 after the EU decided its fuel subsidies were illegal state intervention. Eurotunnel then bought the French ferries.
Eurotunnel has now been instructed by the Competition Commission that the combination of the Chunnel plus three ferries is monopolistic. Eurotunnel and its ferries have 49 per cent of the market, P&O Ferries have the rest. The Competition Commission says having two competing ferry companies and a tunnel stitching up the market leads to price increases. Better to have only one ferry company and one tunnel. Supposedly capitalist competition brings prices down? Britain’s Competition Commission and the French equivalent, using the same data, have arrived at exactly opposing conclusions? Who owns P&O Ferries? Dubai World investment interests.
If having differing providers in the ferry world is deemed uncompetitive, monopolistic and will increase prices, then the energy market provides another twist. Accountancy giant Ernst & Young advises that if the big six energy companies were reduced to the big four, then energy costs would come down– because company overheads would be reduced and the reduction would be passed on to us, the infamous “trickle down to consumers” savings.
Why stop at four? Why not have one publicly owned company supplying energy rather than the ethos of profit? Ernst & Young does not regard the big six or four as a cartel because if it did then all similar operations across every aspect of British industry would also be crying “cartel” from the rooftops. A mere handful of major multinational accountancy firms dominate accountancy and finance across the world – Ernst & Young, KPMG, PWC, Goldman Sachs etc. ■