UK regulator joins five-nation effort against rising supply chain prices | Competition and Markets Authority
The UK competition watchdog is joining forces with its US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand counterparts to detect and investigate collusion between suppliers or transport groups to raise prices.
The Competition and Markets Authority said it was joining colleagues in other ‘five-eyes’ countries after receiving ‘multiple complaints’ from companies about supply chains, where, for example, shipping costs have soared up to 10 times, compared to with pre-pandemic levels, over the past two years. The AMC said that despite the complaints, it had yet to find evidence of potential breaches of the law.
A new task force made up of the US Department of Justice, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Canadian Competition Bureau and the New Zealand Trade Commission is to “meet regularly to develop and share information to detect and investigate alleged anti-competitive conduct”. and collusion”.
The agencies issued a co-ordinated statement saying they “warn businesses that those who attempt to use supply chain disruptions as cover for unlawful anti-competitive behavior, including collusion, will face the full force of the law”.
It is understood that the remit is broad, covering sectors such as retail, healthcare and agriculture.
In the UK, companies guilty of collusion could be fined up to 10% of global turnover and directors could be disqualified or, in some cases, face criminal charges.
Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, urged anyone with knowledge of anti-competitive behavior to contact the watchdog’s cartel hotline. He said: “People and businesses around the world have faced higher prices for goods and for transporting them.
“Although price increases may be legitimate, the CMA would be concerned if collusive anti-competitive practices contribute to these increases or prevent prices from falling.
“The CMA is prepared to use its legal powers when it finds evidence that supply chain issues could be caused by potential violations of competition law.
“These are global issues best tackled together. With support and intelligence from partner agencies around the world, we can intervene and take enforcement action if we find evidence of anti-competitive behavior.
Businesses have been warning for some time about the impact of the soaring cost of transporting goods, which is partly responsible for inflation in the cost of goods and the compression of household spending.
MakeUK, which represents the manufacturing industry, and the British Chambers of Commerce, wrote to the CMA last autumn, asking it to look into the world’s largest shipping companies and whether soaring costs could be justified.
Their complaints came as the world’s biggest shipping companies were set to make extraordinary profits in 2021.
The CMA told industry groups it would monitor the situation, but informed them it was unable to unilaterally address the price hike as shipping costs were “the product of multiple factors. , often of an international nature”.