UK to End Exemption from Antitrust Rules for Carriers, Following EU’s Lead

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UK regulators have released a provisional decision not to recommend the replacement of the current Liner Shipping Consortia Block Exemption regulation, reversing their earlier stance. The UK is currently transitioning the regulation it inherited from the EU after Brexit, and the exemption is set to expire in April 2024. The European Union also plans to end the exemption governing the application of competition regulations.

The exemption, introduced in 1995, allows carriers greater latitude in coordinating schedules and sharing capacity without the potential for antitrust violations. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) began an independent review of the exemption in August 2022, and after reviewing comments from the industry, they have provisionally decided not to recommend an extension. The CMA is asking for final input by December 15 and will issue its final recommendation after reviewing the comments.

The liner industry has been vocal in its opposition to the decision in the EU and is lobbying in London for the extension, arguing that it will harm smaller carriers and reduce the quality of service and frequency on smaller routes. The British International Freight Association has welcomed the provisional decision, calling for members to continue advocating for the final decision and arguing that ending the exemption would lead to a more cooperative relationship between carriers and shippers.

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