Shipping Association to appeal ‘price fixing’ ruling

The Shipping Association of Guyana (SAG) yesterday said it is engaging legal counsel to appeal the recent ruling of the Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC), which found it guilty of “price fixing” in the handling of containers and fined five of its members $3.8 million each.

In a brief statement, SAG noted its “disappointment” in the CCAC’s decision on the implementation of container handling fees by five of its members, who are also terminal operators.

It explained that fees were implemented as a measure to recover legitimate costs of inspection and monitoring of containers and cargo, especially to ensure compliance with the international regulations required for an international port certified by the International Ships and Port Security Code (2004).

“The decision handed down and circulated in the media does not accurately portray the intention of the SAG and its members, as it gives an impression that there was some collusion with intent to create artificially inflated prices. The CCAC’s ruling is not consistent with the facts and the SAG is engaging legal counsel with the intention of filing an appeal,” it added.

In a press statement on Tuesday, the CCAC explained that its commissioners “unanimously” found that the SAG was engaging in anti-competitive behaviour by agreeing to collude to fix rates for the haulage of containers from terminals operated by its membership, with the intention of disrupting the natural market flow to the advantage of the SAG. The CCAC also ordered that SAG members terminate the July 15th, 2017 price fixing arrangement with immediate effect.

The complaint, brought to CCAC by Mahindranauth Jaikarran of JD Transport Services in 2017, argued that the terminal operators imposed handling fees for the private haulers which are not charged on the SAG members, which gives them “a price advantage vis a vis the private hauler, to the extent of the handling fees.”

SAG, whose affected members include Muneshwers Ltd, Demerara Shipping Ltd, John Fernandes Ltd, Guyana National Industrial Company Inc. and Guyana National Shipping Corporation also presented evidence. Following the ruling, SAG’s Chairman Desmond Sears had told this newspaper yesterday that it “does not agree” with ruling and the terminals affected have decided to seek legal advice.

“The terminals have been made to pay. If they don’t pay there could be some repercussion so they’ll be engaging an attorney. We are supportive of that approach,” Sears said.

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