Car carrier majors are reportedly facing a new wave of sanctions from the EU regulators for their involvement in price-fixing schemes.
The companies that are likely to be fined are Japanese shipping majors Nippon Yusen KK (NYK), K Line (Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd) and Mitsui O.S.K Lines (MOL), along with Norwegian Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics ASA (WWL), among others.
A ruling is expected in the following weeks.
The decision is believed to be related to an investigation launched back in September 2012, when EU Commission officials raided the premises of several providers of maritime transport services for cars and construction and agricultural rolling machinery.
Inspections took place in several EU member states in coordination with the US and Japanese competition authorities.
The commission said at the time that it had reasons to believe that the companies concerned were involved in cartels and restrictive business practices.
The Japanese trio confirmed in their respective annual reports for 2017 that they are being investigated in the EU and other overseas jurisdictions on suspicion of violation of antitrust law in relation to transportation of cars and other cargoes.
In addition, class action lawsuits have been launched in the U.S. against the three companies and some of their respective overseas subsidiaries.
As disclosed, the financial impact of the lawsuits is yet to be determined.
Car carrier giants have been involved in several legal proceedings over the past few years. The most recent ones include a class action complaint launched before the United States Federal Maritime Commission by vehicle shippers in May 2016.
Companies targeted by the complaint were NYK Line, Mitsui O.S.K., K Line, followed by World Logistics Service (U.S.A.), Eukor Car Carriers, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, CSAV, Höegh Autoliners, Autotrans and Nissan Motor Car Carrier Corp.
Complainants allege that the companies violated provisions of the Shipping Act of 1984, because they conspired on price-fixing in the U.S. and elsewhere for the import and export of new, assembled vehicles to and from the U.S.
The class action followed a similar investigation launched by Brazilian authorities earlier that year under suspicion that nine car shipping companies were involved in “an international cartel”, as they were linked to collusion on customer allocation and price fixing.
Companies included in the investigation were K Line, NYK and Chile’s CSAV who agreed to cooperate in the investigation along with Grimaldi Group, Höegh Autoliners and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, Nissan Motor Car Carriers and MOL as well as Eukor Car Carriers.
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