July 7 - The European Commission has concluded its investigation into antitrust pricing allegations against 14 container shipping companies.

The Commission opened formal antitrust proceedings to investigate the practice of publishing general rate increase (GRI) announcements in November 2013, following concerns that the practice of publishing intentions on future price increases may have harmed competition and customers.

This practice was thought to have raised prices for container liner shipping services on routes to and from Europe - in breach of EU antitrust rules.

In order to close the investigation, the Commission has adopted a decision that renders the commitments offered by the 14 companies legally binding for a period of three years starting from December 7, 2016.

The commitments offered by the 14 companies include:

- The carriers will stop publishing and communicating GRI announcements;

- The carriers will announce figures that include at least the five main elements of the total price (announce figures that include at least the five main elements of the total price);

- Price announcements will be binding on the carriers as maximum prices for the announced period of validity (but carriers will remain free to offer prices below these ceilings);

- Price announcements will not be made more than 31 days before their entry into force.

The commitments will not apply to communications with purchasers who already have an existing rate agreement in force on the route to which the communication refers; and communications during bilateral negotiations or communications tailored to the needs of specific identified purchasers.

"Container shipping accounts for the vast majority of the non-bulk freight carried by sea to and from Europe. Competitive shipping services are therefore essential for European companies and for the EU's economy as a whole. The commitments offered by 14 carriers will make prices for these services more transparent and increase competition," said the commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager.

The fourteen carriers include: CMA CGM; Cosco; Evergreen; Hamburg Süd; Hanjin; Hapag Lloyd; HMM; Maersk; MOL; MSC; NYK; OOCL; UASC; and ZIM.