WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Antitrust Modernization Commission stopped short of recommending repeal of ocean carriers' antitrust immunity under the Shipping Act of 1984, but called on Congress to take a closer look at carriers' exemption to antitrust laws.
The commission submitted its final report to Congress and the president this week. The 12 commissioners have spent three years in a comprehensive review of antitrust law and how it applies to modern commerce. Last October, the group held a hearing on the Shipping Act.
The commission noted that the Ocean Shipping Reform Act had reduced liner conferences' ability to set rates by allowing carriers to enter service contracts with shippers. Service contracts had led to greater competition and lower rates.
The final report dismisses the argument that antitrust immunity is necessary for carriers to coordinate the use of assets such as space sharing or terminal use. "Contrary to the asserted need for an immunity, ocean shipping provides a good example of an industry that now operates more efficiently with competition than without," the report states.
The commission said Congress generally should not favor legislation that would allow antitrust immunity. If the public good were better served by exempting companies from the antitrust laws, Congress should strictly limit the immunity, and include a sunset clause.
Four commissioners, in comments separate from the commission report, called for repeal of the Shipping Act.