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Mexico fines seven shipping lines over price-fixing

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Mexico’s Federal Economic Competition Commission (Cofece) has issued seven ro-ro carriers with fines totalling 581.6m pesos ($32.4m), saying they acted as a cartel to increase prices.

The companies involved are K-Line and K-Line Americas, Mitsui OSK Lines, Mitsui OSK Bulk and NYK Line from Japan, Chile’s CSAV, and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics of Norway.

“Between 2009 and 2012, these agents entered nine collusive agreements – in some cases the period of the deal was extended into 2015 – to allocate among themselves the national market of maritime transportation of motor vehicles and construction and farming equipment,” said Cofece in a statement.

“This reduced competitive pressure and increased the costs of services provided to companies from the automotive industry.”

The shipping routes involved included seven international countries and five ports in Mexico.

The news follows a number of investigations by antitrust authorities in recent years into similar behaviour in various countries.

In 2013, shippers were fined in Europe after an investigation by the European Union, Japan – courtesy of the country’s Fair Trade Commission – and Chile, where competition authorities were involved.

Then, at the start of 2015, it was revealed that China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) had decided to fine certain international shipping lines for anti-competitive practices in the transport of finished vehicles.

In July last year, meanwhile, WWL became the fourth car carrier confirmed to be fined by the US Department of Justice in relation to price-fixing on international ro-ro services between 2000 and 2009, agreeing to pay out almost $100m in fines.

And most recently, in November 2016, WWL and Eukor agreed to pay fines totalling 28.6m reais ($8.8m) to Brazil’s competition regulator as settlement in a probe into alleged anti-competitive behaviour.