By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU antitrust regulators accepted on Thursday an offer from Maersk <MAERSKb.CO>, the world’s largest container shipping liner, and 13 competitors to change their pricing practices in order to stave off possible fines.
The case is closely watched by other sectors such as supermarkets and chemicals companies, concerned that similar pricing methods could lead to charges of price fixing by competition enforcers.
The European Commission opened a case against the container shipping liners in late 2013, following dawn raids two years earlier.
The companies agreed to publish binding actual rates 31 days before they go into effect, with the figures acting as a price ceiling. Under the current system, they only publish the amount of the increase, not the final price.
The other 13 firms are No.2 player MSC, No. 3 CMA CGM, Germany’s Hapag Lloyd <HLAG.DE> and Hamburg Sud, Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine, China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company (COSCO) [COSCO.UL], OOCL (Orient Overseas Container Line), South Korean firms Hanjin and Hyundai Merchant Marine <011200.KS>, Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) <9104.T> and Nippon Yusen Kaisha <9101.T>, United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) and Israel’s Zim.
Reuters reported on June 28 that the Commission would accept the offer.
“The commitments offered by 14 carriers will make prices for these services more transparent and increase competition,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
The concessions are valid for three years, starting from December.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Mark Potter)