EU Commission Closes Competition Investigation Against Maersk, MSC, and Others


EU Commission closes investigation into 14 container shipping companies without finding an infringement of EU competition law.

The EU Commission has announced that it has closed its formal investigation into 14 container shipping companies, including Maersk Line, relating to Article 9 of Regulation 1/2003, without finding an infringement of EU competition law. EU antitrust regulators accepted an offer from Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping liner, and 13 competitors to change their pricing practices in order to stave off possible fines.

The Commission opened the investigation on 21 November 2013, regarding the use of General Rate Increase (GRI) announcements in the liner shipping sector. GRI announcements are used to inform customers of intended price increases.

The other firms are No.2 player MSC, No. 3 CMA CGM, Germany’s Hapag Lloyd and Hamburg Sud, Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine, China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company (COSCO) , OOCL (Orient Overseas Container Line), South Korean firms Hanjin and Hyundai Merchant Marine, Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) and Nippon Yusen Kaisha , United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) and Israel’s Zim.

“We are very pleased that the EU Commission has closed the case without finding an infringement of EU competition law," noted Camilla Jain Holtse, chief legal counsel on competition compliance at Maersk Line. "We and the other shipping companies have throughout declared that we have not engaged in any practices that contravene EU competition law."

According to Maersk Line, it and the other parties have offered to, and will adopt, commitments by which they will change the way they make price announcements to customers. Notably, there will be changes to the current industry practice of announcing GRIs.

Maersk Line will continue to announce price increases 30 days in advance of implementation to its customers by the usual communication channels. However, instead of solely announcing the amount of the increase, price announcements will include the total price resulting from the increase and further elements to increase transparency for customers.

“We are committed to comply with all applicable laws and regulations. We train and support our employees, we monitor our compliance, and we work with authorities and engage in regulatory matters. In short, we work hard to comply, also with competition laws as this case shows,” Holtse added.

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  1. Good to know the investigation is over and clients can be comfortable with the entire GRI process (not necessary the idea). Clearly, more openness is needed and the commitment from Maersk to provide further details/breakdown on GRI will certainly build more stakeholder confidence in GRIs.