Advance freight rate announcements (GRI) in liner shipping: European and Russian regulatory settlements compared
Advance price announcements in the form of general rate increase (GRIs) by liner shipping companies have recently become the subject of investigations by competition authorities in different jurisdictions, including the European Union and Russia. The main goal of this paper is to answer the question whether GRIs predict price changes of competitors. Comparison of GRIs with actual price changes in particular routes, defined as antitrust markets in competition investigations in Russia, shows a limited anti-competitive effect of advance price announcements, albeit under specific market conditions. Regression analysis, undertaken in the context of the Russian investigation, rejects the hypothesis that the GRI of a particular company would be followed by price increases of its competitors. Moreover, the frequent changes in the market shares of liner companies support the hypothesis of competition vis à vis collusion. Remedies applied by competition authorities address content and timing of GRIs. The theory of tacit collusion suggests that remedies, which further specify the content of price announcements, may paradoxically enhance non-cooperative pricing, in contrast to remedies that restrict audience of GRIs by customers.