Car­tel drives up im­ported car costs

CityPress - - Busi­ness - LLOYD GEDYE busi­ness@city­press.co.za

This year, South Africans be­came aware that they were prob­a­bly pay­ing more for im­ported cars than they should be pay­ing be­cause of a car­tel in the ship­ping in­dus­try.

This was af­ter the Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion be­gan to crack the whip and be­gan an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

This week, the com­mis­sion said it be­lieved the car­tel ac­tiv­ity might be greater than it ini­tially con­sid­ered.

The car­tel was thought to be op­er­at­ing in the mar­kets for ship­ping cars, equip­ment and ma­chin­ery to and from South Africa.

The com­mis­sion’s le­gal team voiced its con­cerns this week as it se­cured ap­proval by the Com­pe­ti­tion Tri­bunal for a set­tle­ment with one of the for­eign ship­ping com­pa­nies.

It said it was re­luc­tant to dis­cuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tion fur­ther with the tri­bunal as it was an on­go­ing probe.

The le­gal team told the tri­bunal: “The com­mis­sion is cu­ri­ous now. We are pay­ing at­ten­tion be­cause there could be wider im­pli­ca­tions for the ship­ping in­dus­try. We think there were big­ger com­pa­nies in­volved in the pro­hib­ited prac­tices.”

This week, ship­ping com­pany Com­pañía Su­damer­i­cana de Va­pores set­tled one in­stance of a pro­hib­ited prac­tice with the com­mis­sion and agreed to pay a fine of more than R8.8 mil­lion.

This in­volved col­lu­sion on a ten­der for Gen­eral Mo­tors in which cars were shipped from South Korea to South Africa in 2009.

There are two out­stand­ing cases the com­mis­sion is in­ves­ti­gat­ing. They in­volve ten­ders for Volk­swa­gen and Ford.

If these two cases are not set­tled, they could be re­ferred to the tri­bunal for pros­e­cu­tion

The le­gal team told the tri­bunal this week that Com­pañía Su­damer­i­cana de Va­pores was not in pos­ses­sion of any in­for­ma­tion that would per­suade the team to set­tle the two cases.

The set­tle­ment agree­ment be­fore the tri­bunal this week states that the com­mis­sion be­lieves the car­tel op­er­ated be­tween 1999 and 2012.

The com­mis­sion case against nine in­ter­na­tional ship­ping com­pa­nies was ini­ti­ated in Septem­ber 2012.

The nine com­pa­nies in­clude Ja­panese firms Mit­sui OSK Lines, Nip­pon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha; Chilean con­cern Com­pañía Su­damer­i­cana de Va­pores; Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies Höegh Au­to­lin­ers and Wal­le­nius Wil­helm­sen Lo­gis­tics; and South Korean-based Eukor Car Car­ri­ers. They are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for price fix­ing, mar­ket di­vi­sion and col­lu­sive ten­der­ing for the trans­porta­tion of ve­hi­cles, equip­ment and ma­chin­ery by sea to and from South Africa. Ten­ders that the com­mis­sion al­leges were col­luded upon were for cus­tomers Toy­ota Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion, Toy­ota SA Mo­tors, Volk­swa­gen, Volk­swa­gen SA, Nis­san Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion, Dai­hatsu Mo­tor, Honda Mo­tor Com­pany, BMW SA, Auto Al­liance, Volvo Con­struc­tion Equip­ment, Ford Mo­tor Com­pany of South­ern Africa, Gen­eral Mo­tors and the Mit­subishi Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion.

In Au­gust this year the Com­pe­ti­tion Tri­bunal heard two set­tle­ment agree­ments in­volv­ing Wal­le­nius Wil­helm­sen Lo­gis­tics and Nip­pon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha.

Wal­le­nius Wil­helm­sen Lo­gis­tics ad­mit­ted to 11 in­stances of en­gag­ing in pro­hib­ited prac­tices and agreed to pay a fine of R95.69 mil­lion.

Nip­pon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha ad­mit­ted to 14 in­stances of en­gag­ing in pro­hib­ited prac­tices and agreed to pay a fine of R103.97 mil­lion.

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