The European Commission has confirmed that it is investigating potential infringements of the European competition rules by container shipping lines on routes between Europe and Asia. The alleged offences are reported to comprise public announcements on websites, by shipping lines, of increases to charges a few weeks prior to their implementation, thus, according to the Commission, signalling their price intentions to competitors. John Milligan from Clyde&Co writes:
Article 101(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union prohibits agreements or practices which have the object or effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition. The private exchange of future pricing information between competitors will be regarded by the Commission as a restriction by object thus contrary to Article 101(1).
The allegation of public exchange of such information on a website is a new development and much less clear, there being amongst other things potential benefits to customers in comparing prices, with many companies in different sectors doing this. This case could be disturbing for such companies. Proof of the offence would not be straightforward, this being a matter for detailed analysis of evidence, intentions of the parties, and impacts on competition, the burden being on the Commission to prove either that the agreement or practice has the object of distorting competition, or if not, that such is the effect.
Viewers with questions, can contact John Milligan partner at Clyde&Co on: firstname.lastname@example.org or their usual contact there.-