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Forwarders fined for price-fixing

[ March 30, 2012   //   ]

The European Commission fined 14 international air freight forwarders a total of €169 million on 28 March for colluding to fix prices and other trading conditions in 2002-07. The fines, which were a European mirror-image to those imposed by the US anti-trust authorities last year, were imposed mainly on large international operators including and were up to around €50 million.

Four cartels controlled prices on major trade lanes between Europe and the US and China. They included one operated when the UK introduced an electronic declaration for exports, in 2003, when freight forwarders agreed to establish a surcharge for the New Export System (NES).

There was also a similar ‘Advanced Manifest System’ (AMS) cartel introduced after US customs called for advance information on goods being shipped to that country in 2003/04, a ‘currency adjustment factor’ (CAF) cartel, following the appreciation of the Chinese currency and a ‘peak season surcharge’ (PSS) cartel in which, the Commission heard forwarders agreed in so-called ‘breakfast meetings’ on the introduction and timing of surcharges to be imposed in the run-up to Christmas as well as, sometimes, the amount of the surcharge for traffic from China and Hong Kong to Europe.

Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia said: “These cartels affected individuals and companies shipping goods on important trade routes. Many European exporters and consumers of imported goods may have been harmed as a result. Companies should be aware that crossing the line and colluding on prices comes at a high price, as today’s decision illustrates.”

In a statement, one of the fowarders affected, Kuehne & Nagel – which was fined €53.7m – said it would carefully consider the Commission’s decision but “already now we are of the opinion that the Commission has not correctly investigated the facts and the participation of KN and has drawn significantly incorrect factual and legal conclusions. In addition, KN’s comprehensive cooperation throughout the investigation was not adequately acknowledged.” An appeal in the European courts was likely, KN added.

 

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