OFT asked to investigate alleged unfair trading practices at Stansted

1.6.2009   (SSE press release)

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has today written to the Office of Fair Trading
(OFT) asking it to investigate allegations of unfair trading practices operating
at Stansted Airport in relation to its treatment of local taxi firms and small
accommodation establishments such as local B&Bs and guest houses.

Over the years SSE has received a number of reports alleging anti-competitive
and/or unfair behaviour by BAA Stansted towards these types of small local businesses
and, with a view to obtaining a better understanding of the position, SSE carried
out a questionnaire survey of local taxi firms and B&B/guest houses within
a 15 mile radius of the airport.

A total of 28 replies were received to the questionnaire survey and, in writing
to the OFT, SSE acknowledges that “Clearly there is a need for caution when considering
the results from a sample of just 28 responses. However, the consistency of the
matters complained about suggests that some credence should be attached to the

The complaints from local taxi firms were mostly about BAA’s exclusive agreement
with ‘Chequer Cars’ which provides this one taxi firm with a dedicated pick-up
area directly outside the terminal building while all other taxi operators are
subject to restrictions and are forced to pick up passengers from the short-stay
car park and pay car parking charges.

The main complaints from local B&Bs and guest houses were against the accommodation
booking desk at Stansted which (like Chequer Cars) apparently pays BAA for an
exclusive franchise. The main complaints were:

* Charging local B&Bs and guest houses excessive rates of commission;

* Giving preferential treatment to airport hotels because a more expensive room
rate provides a higher commission fee;

* Wrongly advising people looking for low-cost accommodation that the local B&Bs
were fully booked and that only expensive hotel rooms were available.

SSE Campaign Director Carol Barbone said: “There are clearly some issues here
which deserve to be investigated. Local taxi firms and family-run B&Bs obviously
do not feel they are getting a fair crack of the whip from BAA at Stansted and
hopefully this is something which the Office of Fair Trading will pursue on their





A copy of the SSE letter to the OFT is available here.

SSE letter to OFT 

The results of the survey were originally submitted to the Competition Commission
in connection with its market inquiry of BAA. However the Commission ultimately
took the view that these matters were not directly related to BAA’s common ownership
of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports and so were not within the scope of
its inquiry. That is why SSE is now passing the evidence over to the OFT.


Carol Barbone, Campaign Director, SSE: M 0777 552 3091,