The Competition Authority of Iceland has imposed an ISK 4.2 billion ($32 million / €30 million) fine on shipping company Samskip for serious violations of competition laws. Samskip strongly disputes the charges and plans to appeal, questioning the Authority’s methods and criticising Eimskip’s earlier settlement in the seven-year-long investigation.
“Incorrect, misleading, and insufficient” information
The Competition Authority has levied an ISK 4.2 billion ($32 million / €30 million) administrative fine against the shipping company Samskip, citing serious violations of competition laws, RÚV reports. According to the Authority, the company “provided incorrect, misleading, and insufficient” information over the course of the investigation. The same applies to the company’s disclosure of documents.
The case centres on the illegal collusion of Samskip and Eimskip, another major player in the shipping industry. While Eimskip had settled their part of the case in 2021 for a considerably smaller ISK 1.5 billion ($11 million / €11 million) fine, Samskip has been slapped with a considerably larger penalty.
A seven-year investigation reveals extensive violations
As noted by RÚV, the probe into these activities was initiated in the fall of 2013 when searches were conducted at Samskip and Eimskip offices, followed by a second round of searches the subsequent summer. The violations, according to the Competition Authority, spanned five years, from 2008 to 2013, involving a litany of anti-competitive practices, such as:
- Coordinating changes in shipping systems and limiting transport capacity.
- Dividing markets based on large customers in sea and land transport.
- Colluding on the imposition of fees and discount terms.
- Sharing of sensitive pricing and business information.
- Collaborating on specific transport routes within Iceland and international sea transport.
The Competition Authority minced no words in its judgement, declaring Samskip’s actions “serious and extensive,” especially as they occurred “in markets where the participants of the collusion had a dominant position.”
Hörður Felix Harðarsson, Samskip’s legal representative, expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome. “We are disappointed with both the investigation and the results. The only option now is to appeal to the Competition Appeals Committee. We strongly believe that neither the charges nor the fine amount can withstand scrutiny,” Hörður told RÚV yesterday. Hörður also indicated that court action is on the table if the appeals committee doesn’t render a satisfactory verdict.
Managers face legal repercussions, authority’s tactics questioned
Upon the revelation that Eimskip was negotiating a settlement, Samskip also sought a similar resolution. However, talks disintegrated after the Competition Authority determined the dialogue would not yield fruitful outcomes. The authority has also referred complaints against specific employees of both companies to the district prosecutor’s office three times – in 2014, 2016, and 2018 – further complicating the legal landscape.
“During the prosecutor’s investigation, two managers from Samskip and two from Eimskip were accorded the legal status of a defendant. The probe remains incomplete,” the Competition Authority’s report adds.
Samskip condemns Eimskip’s settlement
In an official statement, Samskip blasted both the Competition Authority’s investigative tactics and Eimskip’s amicable settlement.
“It raises significant ethical questions when a dominant market player can essentially use its financial resources to sidestep additional legal scrutiny. Equally concerning is the prospect that the overwhelming influence of regulatory bodies could pressure a company into pleading guilty and paying a substantial fine, all without concrete evidence – essentially forgoing the chance to present a fact-based defence before higher judicial authorities or the courts.”
Samskip alleges that the Competition Authority’s rigorous probe has severely impaired its operations and staff morale.
“The Competition Authority has overstepped its bounds in both the scope of its investigation and its data collection methods. The conclusions reached are entirely disconnected from the facts on the ground. Accusations are being levied without the support of concrete evidence, relying instead on conjectures and theories. These theories are often underpinned by blatant misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the data and the true circumstances of the case.”
The company emphasised that it had no intention of accepting the verdict as it stands and is committed to pursuing all available legal avenues to have the decision overturned.