British shippers, consumers urge U.K. government to end conference immunity
The U.K.-based Freight Transport Association, which represents British shippers, and Britain’s Consumers’ Association have written to the country’s Secretary of State for Trade and Industry requesting that the government actively oppose the renewal of the European conference immunity regulation.
“The effect of this block exemption is to allow shipping lines to price fix,” the two associations said in a joint statement. “This results in a reduction in competition and a subsequent dilution of commercial incentives to improve efficiency and performance.”
The European Commission will hold hearings on the conference immunity question in Brussels on Wednesday (Dec. 4).
‘It is high time the British government stood up for consumers and industry on this issue,” said Phil Evans, principal policy adviser at the Consumers’ Association. “British industry is paying a tax to a legalized cartel; a tax that is passed on to consumers through higher prices.”
Andrew Traill, head of maritime policy at the Freight Transport Association, said that his organization can see no substantive benefit to customers or consumers from the exemption, and has “very serious doubts about the sustainability of the shipping industry operating in a cartel and not a free market.”
Traill called the immunity for conferences “out-dated” and “out-moded,” and said it must be removed.