EU to Investigate Shippers for Collusion

European Commission investigators are acting on shipper allegations that lines could be colluding on freight rates.

The European Commission announced last week that they have begun formal proceedings into “several major container shipping lines” to investigate whether they broke antitrust regulations in the announcement of general rate increases. The investigation follows a series of raids on the European headquarters of 14 carriers more than two years ago, including shipping companies Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, Hamburg Süd, NOL, Hanjin, Evergreen and Cosco among others.

The investigation will focus on the way in which general rate increases, particularly on the main Asia-Europe westbound trade, have been announced at similar times and by similar amounts.

Maersk Line has already denied the accusation in a release, but they have acknowledged being part of the investigation. The carrier said:?“No formal letter from the commission on the matter has been received yet, but we have been informed that we will be part of the investigations. AP Møller-Maersk has no reason to believe that Maersk Line has behaved in a manner not in accordance with EU competition law.”

“Since 2009, these companies have been making regular public announcements of price increase intentions through press releases on their websites and in the specialized trade press. These announcements are made several times a year and contain the amount of increase and the date of implementation, which is generally similar for all announcing companies. The announcements are usually made by the companies successively a few weeks before the announced implementation date," the EU said in a release. “The commission has concerns that this practice may allow the companies to signal future price intentions to each other and may harm competition and customers by raising prices on the market for container liner shipping transport services on routes to and from Europe.”

The latest round of GRIs came on November 14 and 15 , when most of the major carriers on the Asia-Europe trade announced a rate increase of between $750 and $775 per TEU to be implemented on December 15, while the previous implementation of GRIs was at the beginning of November. To read more, click HERE.