Japanese shipping company Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd (K Line) has been convicted of criminal cartel conduct and ordered by the Federal Court in Australia to pay a fine of A$34.5m ($23.5m) in the latest of a long running series of fine dished out around the world to many of the world’s top car carrier firms.
The Federal Court found K Line engaged in a cartel with other shipping companies in order to fix prices on the transportation of cars, trucks, and buses to Australia between 2009 and 2012.
K Line’s fine of A$34.5m is the largest ever criminal fine imposed under the Competition and Consumer Act.
K Line pleaded guilty on April 5 2018, following an extensive criminal investigation by the local competition authorities.
The cartel operated from at least February 1997, and impacted the transportation prices of cars, trucks, and buses to Australia from the US, Asia and various European countries. K Line, and other shipping lines transported these vehicles on behalf of major car manufacturers such as Nissan, Suzuki, Honda, Toyota and Isuzu and others.
“Cartel conduct, such as that engaged in by K-line, not only cheats consumers and other businesses through inflated prices and costs, but also restricts healthy economic growth and discourages innovation,” said Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) chair Rod Sims, adding: “This decision is a serious warning to businesses and will deter others seeking to join or start a cartel. Businesses should know that engaging in cartel conduct will result in ACCC scrutiny and result in potentially very serious consequences.”