Deutsche Post triumphs in billion-euro Brussels row

Luxembourg - Germany's postal monopoly, Deutsche Post (DP), triumphed Tuesday in a six-year-old legal fight with the European Commission, winning the right from the European Court to claim back up to 1 billion euros (1.6 billion dollars) from the government.

In a statement, the European Court of First Instance ruled that the commission "had not proven sufficiently for legal purposes that the disputed (government) payments had given DP an advantage in the meaning of the ban on state aid."

The case concerns DP's door-to-door parcel delivery service, which it operates in competition with commercial firms.

In 1994, a number of competitors complained to the commission - the EU's executive, which is charged with overseeing its competition laws - that DP was offering the service at below cost price.

The plaintiffs argued that DP was covering the loss generated by its door-to-door parcels service with the state support it was given for delivering letters, and was therefore effectively benefiting from unfair state aid.

In 2001, the commission ruled that DP had indeed broken EU competition rules, and ordered it to pay the German government 572 million euros, which the commission calculated it had received in aid.

Tuesday's judgement overturns that decision and means that DP is now free to claim the 572 million euros plus interest, bringing the total to close to 1 billion euros, back from the government.

The commission can appeal the decision to the European Court of Justice within two months. (dpa)