The European Commission has confirmed today that the fifteen container lines suspected of a breach of antitrust rules have committed to change their policy regarding publishing and communicating General Rate Increase announcements so as to avoid further EC investigation and potential fines.
The Commission launched an investigation in November 2013, claiming that since 2009, major global container shipping companies have been making regular public announcements on price increases for transport services on routes to and from Europe, signaling future price intentions to each other and harming competition.
The carriers in question are China Shipping, CMA CGM, COSCO, Evergreen, Hamburg Süd, Hanjin , Hapag Lloyd, HMM, Maersk, MOL, MSC, NYK, OOCL, UASC and ZIM, the EC said.
As the announcements were made several times a year and contained the amount of increase and the date of implementation, generally similar for all announcing companies and were made successively a few weeks before the announced implementation date, a suspicion arised on whether the liners were working in cahoots.
According to the EC, based on the latest deal, any such future announcements will be binding on the carriers as maximum prices for the announced period of validity, but carriers will remain free to offer prices below these ceilings. In addition, price announcements will not be made more than 31 days before their entry into force.
The commitments would apply for a period of three years.