Anti-trust for Australian lines could end

Anti-trust for Australian lines could end

Price-fixing in the Australia cargo shipping industry could soon come to an end following an investigation by the country's competition watchdog.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a paper on Monday that found members of the Asia-Australia Discussion Agreement (AADA) should no longer be given the power to legally fix prices.

The investigation by the ACCC comes after some Australian importers complained of unreasonable increases in freight rates for cargo being shipped from northeast Asia to Australia last year.

The Trade Practices Act allows for a group of shipping lines to be exempt from some of its anti-competitive provisions in order to help improve scheduling and certainty of services, both of which are considered to outweigh any anti-competitive conduct.

The ACCC can step in and investigate if it suspects the exemption is being used to hike prices.

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said the price fixing had led to significant cost increases for Australian businesses importing goods from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, The Age reported.

"The rates implemented by the members of the AADA in July, August and October 2003 increased the cost of shipping containers by approximately 100 per cent over market rates that existed in June," he said.

The ACCC is calling for public submissions on its position paper, and after will make recommendations to the federal government.