Ag equip supply firm sues freight carriers over fuel surcharges
An Escondido, Calif.-based irrigation and agricultural supply company filed a federal class action lawsuit Monday accusing 10 freight shipping firms of illegal price-fixing over fuel surcharges.
The Water Tech lawsuit alleges that since 2003, freight shipping firms such as the named Memphis-based FedEx, Atlanta-based UPS, and San Mateo, Calif.-based Con-Way, have used rising fuel costs “as a pretext and an opportunity for the defendants to agree among themselves to impose collusive 'fuel surcharges.' ' The lawsuit also alleges that the imposed surcharges “move in lockstep” and are tied to a federal fuel index.
“The amount of the ‘fuel surcharge’ imposed by the (less-than-truckload) companies on shipping orders exceeds the entire cost of fuel for delivering the freight of most customers,' the lawsuit states, 'and vastly exceeds the increase in fuel prices since the ‘fuel surcharge’ was imposed.”
The lawsuit further states that the freight shipping firms conspired to set fuel surcharges for “less-than-truckload” shipments, defined in the court documents as domestic shipments from 300 to 10,000 pounds. Full-truckload shipments, non-business shipments and small parcels are not included in the lawsuit.
Water Tech asks that the U.S. District Court in San Diego determine that the 10 named freight shipping firms have violated federal antitrust law. While the suit does not detail monetary damages, it does ask that the court award three times the damages accrued by Water Tech due to the surcharges. Names of the other seven firms were not immediately available.