The European Commission (EC) said Wednesday that it had fined four maritime car carriers 395 million euros (U.S. $486.5 million).
Four shipping companies – CSAV, K Line, NYK and WWL-Eukor – have been fined by the EC for collusion in operating a cartel on the car carrier trades, in breach of EU antitrust rules.
All companies acknowledged their involvement in the cartels and agreed to settle the cases.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy said:"The Commission has sanctioned several companies for colluding in the maritime transport of cars and the supply of car parts.The three separate decisions taken today show that we will not tolerate anticompetitive behaviouraffecting European consumers and industries. By raising component prices or transport costs for cars, the cartels ultimately hurt European consumers and adversely impacted the competitiveness of the European automotive sector, which employs around 12 million people in the EU."
The European Commission found that the Chilean maritime carrier CSAV, the Japanese carriers "K" Line, MOL and NYK, and the Norwegian/Swedish carrier WWL-EUKOR participated in a cartel concerning intercontinental maritime transport of vehicles, and imposed a total fine of €395 million.
For almost 6 years, from October 2006 to September 2012, the five carriers formed a cartel in the market for deep sea transport of new cars, trucks and other large vehicles such as combine harvesters and tractors, on various routes between Europe and other continents.
The Commission's investigation revealed that, to coordinate anticompetitive behaviour, the carriers' sales managers met at each other's offices, in bars, restaurants or other social gatherings and were in contact over the phone on a regular basis. In particular, they coordinated prices, allocated customers and exchanged commercially sensitive information about elements of the price, such as charges and surcharges added to prices to offset currency or oil prices fluctuations.
The carriers agreed to maintain the status quo in the market and to respect each other's traditional business on certain routes or with certain customers, by quoting artificially high prices or not quoting at all in tenders issued by vehicle manufacturers.
The cartel affected both European car importers and final customers, as imported vehicles were sold within the European Economic Area (EEA), and European vehicle manufacturers, as their vehicles were exported outside the EEA. In 2016, some 3.4 million motor vehicles were imported from non-EU countries, while the EU exported more than 6.3 million vehicles to non-EU countries in 2016. Almost half of these vehicles were transported by the carriers that have been fined today.
The Commission's investigation started with an immunity application submitted by MOL. During its investigation, the Commission cooperated with several competition authorities around the world, including in Australia, Canada, Japan and the US.