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European Commission extends antitrust exemption for liner consortia

June 25 - The European Commission has extended by another five years until April 2020 the validity of the existing legal framework exempting, if certain conditions are met, liner shipping consortia from EU antitrust rules.

After a public consultation, the Commission has concluded that the exemption has worked well, providing legal certainty to agreements which bring benefits to customers and do not unduly distort competition, and that current market circumstances warrant a prolongation.

The maritime consortia block exemption regulation allows shipping lines with a combined market share of below 30 percent to enter into cooperation agreements to provide joint cargo transport services (so-called "consortia").

Such agreements usually allow liner shipping carriers to rationalise their activities and achieve economies of scale.

An official statement said that if consortia face sufficient competition and are not used to fix prices or share the market, users of services provided by consortia are usually able to benefit from improvements in productivity and service quality. The Commission has therefore exempted such agreements from the prohibition of anticompetitive agreements in Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

The first consortia block exemption regulation was adopted in 1995 and prolonged several times. The latest market investigation, conducted in 2013, showed that the main tenets of the Commission's approach are still valid. This has been confirmed by a public consultation early 2014 (see IP/14/196). The responses to the consultation received are available here:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2014_maritime_consortia/index_en.html.

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