ESA fines Color Line

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The European Free Trade Association’s Surveillance Authority (ESA) has issued its highest fine ever to Norwegian ferry operator Color Line, for hindering competition on its route between Sandefjord in Norway and Strömstad in Sweden.

ESA fined Color Line the equivalent of NOK 145 million (USD 26 million), claiming the ferry company operated in violation of competition rules laid down in the EU economic cooperation agreement known as the EØS-avtale in Norway. The agreement obliges Norwegian companies to operate in accordance with EU rules in order to maintain access to EU markets.

Color Line entered into an exclusive agreement with harbor authorities in Strömstad in 1991, leaving it as the only ferry operator serving the port. Other companies didn’t get a chance to bid for service rights until 2005, when Color Line’s agreement expired and Strömstad halted the exclusivity.

Color Line can appeal the fine to the European Free Trade Association’s court.

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