The European Commission has fined the three main Japanese shipping lines along with Chilean carrier CSAV and Scandinavian company WWL-EUKOR for participating in a cartel concerning vehicle transport.
NYK line was hit with a €142m (US$175m) fine and “K” Line received a €39m (US$48m) fine for involvement in the cartel between October 2006 and September 2012.
However, MOL received full immunity for revealing the existence of the cartel, thereby avoiding a fine of €203m (US$250m).
According to the commission, the five carriers broke EU antitrust rules in the market for deep sea transport of new cars, trucks and other large vehicles on various routes between Europe and other continents.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “We will not tolerate anticompetitive behaviour affecting 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 12m people in the EU.”
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 regular contact by phone.
In particular, they coordinated prices, allocated customers and exchanged commercially sensitive information about elements of 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.
In 2016, 3.4m motor vehicles were imported from non-EU countries, while the EU exported more than 6.3m vehicles to non-EU countries. Almost half of these vehicles were transported by the five guilty carriers.