Following a protracted price-fixing investigation of 15 major container lines, the European Commission has issued a new directive enforcing a 31-day limit for prior announcement of General Rate Increases (GRIs), and each announcement should contain a breakdown of charges and the routes to which they related, as laid down in Article 9(1) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003.
The EU’s watchdog body had accused the 15 lines - China Shipping, CMA CGM, Cosco, Evergreen, Hamburg Sud, Hanjin, Hapag-Lloyd, Hyundai MM, Maersk Line, MOL, MSC, NYK, OOCL, UASC and Zim - of announcing GRIs ahead of time as a way of testing the water and co-ordinating with one another’s pricing activity, rather than for the benefit of customers.
“Since 2009, these companies have been making regular public announcements of price increase intentions through press releases on their websites and in the specialised trade press,” the Commission said in 2013, warning 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”.
Despite the co-ordinated nature of GRIs, container lines had only been able to push up rates for a few weeks at best before their plunge in the second half of 2015.
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