Wednesday, March 24, 2004

EU Orders Six Flags to Offer Coasters with Trains Unbundled

Despite Six Flags's announced intention to sell all of its European parks to outside investors, the European Union issued its ruling yesterday in its antitrust investigation of the international park chain. In addition to a substantial fine, Six Flags will be required to offer European consumers two versions of all of its coasters.

The first version of the coasters will remain the same as they presently are. The second, however, will "unbundle" the trains, permitting customers to bring their own trains to be attached to the tracks or, alternatively, to simply walk around the tracks without any trains.

EU competition commissioner Mario Monti told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday that Six Flags had "for too long abused consumers by requiring that, if they wished to ride Six Flags's coasters, the customers also use Six Flags's coaster trains. This is unfair to consumers and unfair to competitors. Our ruling will help consumer choice and innovation."

Six Flags announced that, while it will also appeal the ruling, it will start construction of duplicates of all of its European coasters within thirty days. Thus far it has avoided EU scrutiny of its bundling of hot dogs with buns.

Attorneys general in the United States are reportedly considering action against the park chain for its requirement that customers ride coasters using only the software provided by the manufacturers, but they are expected to completely wuss out at the last minute and settle for four dollars and a free Bugs Bunny shirt.