The European Commission has decided to not renew its antitrust guidelines as they apply to maritime transport services, allowing the redundant guidelines to expire on Sept. 26.
The decision by the European Commission is in line with the recent phasing out of antitrust rules that apply to specific industries.
The rules, which were adopted for a five-year period in July 2008, set out how the European Commission analyzes cooperation and other agreements among liner shipping services. Commissioners imposed the rules to protect consumers against mergers that limit trade in the European Union.
The commission found that the main purpose of the guidelines had been achieved, that the rules overlap with existing antitrust guidelines, and that removing these rules would benefit the transportation sector.
“The Maritime Antitrust Guidelines bring no significant additional guidance compared to the existing commission general guidelines, the EU courts case law and the commission's decisions,” according to a commission working document on the matter. “In fact, more recent guidance notices exist, which are more up to date in terms of legal and economic standards."
Analyses by the European commission found the maritime sector has changed drastically since the antitrust guidelines were enacted. The rules covered frameworks for analyzing exchanges between competitors, both between liner shipping companies and among groups of tramp shipper operators. These guidelines never introduced new positions, but were actually just a summary of existing regulations.
“The purpose of the guidelines was to facilitate the operators' transition to a new era of competition and self-assessment in the liner shipping sector,” according to the commission document. “In this respect, the guidelines focus in substance notably on information exchanges between competitors in liner shipping. At the time of the adoption of the guidelines, no comprehensive general commission guidance existed in this field apart from previous case law.” - Jon Ross