Brussels, 29th September 2006
Competition: Commission calls for comments on effects on competition of information exchange in liner shipping markets
The European Commission has published a staff paper on the potential impact of information exchanges between liner carriers on the market for liner shipping. The Commission is concerned that exchanges of information could lead in practice to a co-ordination of prices and other trading conditions between liner carriers. Stakeholders are invited to submit their comments by 31st October. The paper is an interim step in the preparation of Guidelines on the application of the EC Treaty competition rules to the maritime transport sector due to be finalised in 2008 This consultation follows the repeal of the block exemption for liner shipping conferences decided by the Competitiveness Council on 25th September 2006 (see IP/06/1249 and MEMO/06/344).
The repeal of the block exemption for liner shipping conferences will take effect in 2008. The European Liner Affairs Association (ELAA), a liner shipping association representing around 90% of world containership capacity, proposed that the block exemption should be replaced with an information exchange system.
The Commission has acknowledged that exchanges of information leading to greater market transparency may help improve the provision of liner services, in the interest of carriers, transport users and the public in general. To be acceptable however, any new system for information exchange must respect the competition rules.
The Commission has met with representatives of the liner shipping industry regularly during the last two years to discuss potential competition concerns of an information exchange system. The issues paper is the result of these discussions. It sets out a preliminary view of the extent to which the ELAA’s revised proposal for an information exchange is compatible with competition rules. Some elements of the current ELAA proposal appear to be in line with that requirement. Others are problematic notably because they do not differ in effect from what liner conferences are currently doing. Accepting the revised ELAA proposal in its current form would appear to remove all of the pro-competitive effects of the abolition of the liner conference system. Stakeholders are asked to submit their views by 31st October 2006.
The paper is an interim step in the preparation of Guidelines on the
application of competition rules to maritime transport services. After the
adoption of draft Guidelines by the Commission in 2007, interested parties will
be able to submit their comments. The final version of the Guidelines will be
issued before the end of the transitional period for existing liner conferences
which expires in October 2008.