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Regulator reviews punitive measures against shippers' alleged price fixing

All News 10:38 January 12, 2022

SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's antitrust regulator was holding a deliberation session Wednesday to decide punitive actions against HMM Co. and 22 other shippers over their suspected price fixing of freight rates.

Since 2018, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) has been looking into allegations that the country's top shipper HMM and 22 domestic and foreign shipping lines had colluded to fix higher freight rates for Southeast Asian sea routes.

After the probe, the regulator informed them in May that it may impose up to 800 billion won (US$672 million) in fines for the alleged violation of the fair trade act.

The outcome of the FTC's deliberation will come out this month.

The South Korean shippers have fiercely protested against the FTC's move. They claimed they are allowed to take collective actions on freight rates and other contract conditions for transport under the country's maritime shipping act.

But the regulator believes their actions cannot be viewed as a justifiable act, as they failed to meet certain criteria that are permissible under the law.

An association of shippers said if the regulator imposes what they see as an excessive fine, it could deal a blow to the country's shipping industry.

A ruling party lawmaker proposed a revised bill last year that says collective actions by shippers will not be subject to the antitrust act, in a move to put pressure on the FTC.

The antitrust regulator expressed opposition to the bill, saying the legislation move runs counter to global trends.

This undated photo, provided by HMM, shows its 13,000 TEU-class container ship. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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