The European Commission has invited comments on commitments offered by fifteen container liner shipping companies to address concerns raised relating to concerted practices.
Specifically, the Commission has raised concerns that container liner shipping companies' practice of publishing their future price increase intentions may harm competition and consumers by raising prices for their services to and from Europe, in breach of EU antitrust rules.
Fifteen container liner shipping companies have regularly announced price hikes in advance, on their websites., namely: China Shipping (China), 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).
These price announcements, known as General Rate Increases or GRI announcements, do not indicate the fixed final price for the service concerned, but only the amount of the increase in US Dollars per transported container unit (twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU)), the affected trade route, and the planned date of implementation. They generally concern sizable increases of several hundred US Dollars per TEU.
GRI announcements are made typically three to five weeks before their intended implementation date, and during that time some or all of the other carriers announce similar intended rate increases for the same or similar route and same or similar implementation date. Announced General Rate Increases have sometimes been postponed or modified by some carriers, possibly aligning them with the General Rate Increases announced by other carriers.
The Commission has concerns that General Rate Increase announcements may not provide full information on new prices to customers but merely allow carriers to explore each other's pricing intentions and coordinate their behavior.
The Commission has highlighted that such conduct would breach EU and European Economic Area (EEA) competition rules' ban on concerted practices between companies (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement).
In order to address the Commission's concerns, the carriers offered the following commitments:
The commitments would apply for a period of three years.
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