Five competition watchdogs to focus on collusion in international trade

Five competition authorities have formed a working group to help prevent anti-competitive conduct from occurring in the supply and distribution of goods.

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Illustration. Image Courtesy: Kees Torn on Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

The working group brings together the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), the US Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Canadian Competition Bureau, NZ Commerce Commission, and UK Competition and Markets Authority.

As informed, the five competition authorities will focus on illegal conduct, including collusion, in global supply chains, in light of the pandemic-induced disruptions that have led to much higher freight rates and more expensive goods for consumers.

“The global freight supply chain is a complex network involving many jurisdictions, so naturally detecting anti-competitive conduct requires strong international partnerships,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“COVID-19 has caused the supply chain disruptions the world is currently experiencing, but the purpose of this working group is to detect any attempts by businesses to use these conditions as a cover to work together and fix prices.”

“We will be sharing intelligence to identify any behaviour that restricts or distorts competition, and companies are now on notice that the ACCC and its international counterparts will be ready to act,” Sims added.

Increased demand for containerised cargo and heavy congestion across the global supply chain have caused disruptions and delays to most parts of the economy. Freight rates on key global trade routes are currently about seven times higher than they were two years ago.

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Types of anti-competitive conduct the working group will be watching for include cartels and any other activities that materially impact competition, such as exclusionary arrangements by firms with market power.