Vehicle Dealers Allege Car Carrier Price Fixing
On Wednesday, the Federal Maritime Commission published notices in the Federal Register announcing that subsidiaries of a truck dealership and a car dealership have filed complaints against ten car carrier operators, alleging price fixing and resulting damages. The two complaints propose class actions on behalf of all truck, heavy equipment and automobile dealers who bought vehicles priced with a Vehicle Carrier Service charge from the named carriers.
The dealers claimed that "as a direct result of the anticompetitive and unlawful conduct of Respondents and their co-conspirators alleged in this Complaint, [vehicle dealers] paid artificially inflated prices for vehicle carrier services incorporated into the price of new vehicles they purchased" during the alleged period of collusion.
The named firms in the dealers' FMC court filings include NYK Line, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, World Logistics Service, Hoegh Autoliners, Nissan Motor Car Carriers, K Line, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, Eukor Car Carriers, CSAV and associated subsidiaries.
The Federal Maritime Commission's Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution will next meet with the dealers and the carriers to determine whether the complaints may be resolved through mediation.
The vessel operators named in the dealers' complaints overlap in part with the operators under investigation by Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defence (CADE), which initiated an inquiry in February. CADE contended that it had "robust evidence" that the lines in its inquiry were in the practice of "[allocating] clients . . . to maintain or increase prices, also with combined resistance to clients' solicitations for price reductions." Three of the nine firms in CADE's investigation have agreed to cooperate through a Cease and Desist Agreement.
Several of the firms in the dealers’ suit have also been named in separate investigations by the Japan Fair Trade Commission, the South African Competition Commission, and the U.S. Department of Justice, on similar charges.