On Monday, two NYC tour bus operating companies announced that they were willing to settle a 2012 lawsuit and pay $7.5 million to the government, as well as give up 50 bus stops in some of the most appealing sightseeing spots in Manhattan.
Officials reported that the settlement was a big success and will revive local competition, which had been nearly crashed by the two companies’ monopoly.
The announcement was made by the New York attorney general and the Justice Department on Monday. Such a noteworthy settlement comes after a 3-year long lawsuit filed by the NY state and the federal government against City Sights and Gray Line New York, two of the largest tour bus operators in the Big Apple.
According to court documents, the two companies virtually monopolized the bus touring activity after teaming up and forming Twin America in 2009. In the lawsuit, state officials argued that both companies created Twin America joint venture to literally obliterate competition and allow them to raise fares.
As of today, in Manhattan, only double-decker tour buses operated by Twin America can be seen by visitors, who usually go for a bus ride in order to expand their tourist experience.
As part of the deal with officials, the two companies have to give up 50 of their most popular bus stops nearby Times Square and the Empire State Building among others. The stops would be assigned to other tour bus operators by the city hall. Twin American also agreed to pay $7.5 million from the profits it had made since 2009.
The money will compensate both the federal government and the NY state.
“This settlement allows competition to thrive once again, and ensures that these companies did not profit from operating an unlawful and anticompetitive joint venture,”
Eric T. Schneiderman, who currently serves as New York Attorney General, recently said.
Also, according to the suit, when Twin America emerged in 2009, bus fares were raised by as much as 10 percent. The following years, no other bus tour operator was able to enter the Manhattan area since there were no vacant stops near the most popular attractions, as the two companies obtained all the authorizations for the best locations.
However, all these years, most New Yorkers and visitors weren’t aware that City Sights’ double-deckers and Green Line tour buses were run by the same joint venture – Twin America.
Yet, NYC residents often complained about the companies, whose massive buses often clog streets and even allow riders to peep into people’s homes when touring the city.
The Justice Department also announced that the two operators must forfeit the 50 stops by May 1. Still, until then, the settlement has to get the approval of the federal court in Manhattan.
The companies have assured their full cooperation, and confirmed that Twin America had already filed court papers jointly with the Department of Justice and the NY Attorney General. In 2014, the two companies reached another agreement with the state, that time on behalf of consumers, by agreeing to pay $19 million.