On 25 October 2018 the CMA fined Heathrow Airport £1.6m for restrictions in leases with Arora Group, owner of the Sofitel at Terminal 5. The hotel was prohibited from charging non-guests less than Heathrow's tariffs for parking in the hotel's car park. Arora was not fined because it blew the whistle.
The fact that both parties had legal advice on the leases did not prevent the CMA from regarding the price restriction as amounting to an intentional, or at the very least, negligent breach of the UK competition rules in Chapter I of the Competition Act. The restriction was "by object" to prevent or distort competition in the relevant market which was held to be that for car parking services at Terminal 5.
The importance of the decision is that it shows the increased interest of the CMA in looking at anti-competitive aspects of agreements relating to land. Indeed, this is not the first "car parking" decision: the CAA issued one in relation to East Midlands Airport in 2016. In our view this will likely continue and it would be wise for both landlords and tenants to check the terms of agreements which deal with the commercial exploitation of the real estate.
Full non-confidential decision published 23 November 2018.