EU: No Breach of Competition Laws in GRI Probe

The European Commission has closed its formal investigation into fourteen container shipping companies due to a suspected breach of antitrust rules without finding an infringement of EU competition law.

The Commission also adopted a decision that renders legally binding the commitments offered by fourteen container liner shipping companies, which aim to increase price transparency for customers and to reduce the likelihood of coordinating prices.

The Commission opened the investigation related to the use of General Rate Increase (GRI) announcements in the liner shipping sector on 21 November 2013, claiming that since 2009, major global container shipping companies have been making regular public announcements on price increases signaling future price intentions to each other and harming competition.

The liners earlier decided to settle on the matter and dodge fines, and as a result of the settlement, the liners promised to publish binding actual rates a month before they go into effect. They will now adopt commitments by which they will change the way they make price announcements to customers.

The Commission made the commitments legally binding on the carriers for a period of three years starting from December 7, 2016.

“Container shipping accounts for the vast majority of the non-bulk freight carried by sea to and from Europe. Competitive shipping services are therefore essential for European companies and for the EU’s economy as a whole. The commitments offered by 14 carriers will make prices for these services more transparent and increase competition,” Commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, said.

The companies which were included in the investigation are big league players CMA CGM (France), COSCO (China), Evergreen (Taiwan), Hamburg Süd (Germany), Hanjin (South Korea), Hapag Lloyd (Germany), HMM (South Korea), Maersk (Denmark), MOL (Japan), MSC (Switzerland), NYK (Japan), OOCL (Hong Kong), UASC (UAE) and ZIM (Israel).

Alphaliner earlier said that the carriers in the Asia – Europe trade are expected to implement new ‘Freight All Kinds’ (FAK) rate structures, as part of a commitment to address the European Commission’s concerns over GRI announcements.

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