EU to fine UPS, other logistics firms over cartel

BRUSSELS Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:56pm EDT

United Parcel Service cargo aircraft are loaded with air containers full of packages bound for their final destination at the UPS Worldport All Points International Hub during the peak delivery day in Louisville, Kentucky, December 22, 2011. REUTERS/John Sommers II

United Parcel Service cargo aircraft are loaded with air containers full of packages bound for their final destination at the UPS Worldport All Points International Hub during the peak delivery day in Louisville, Kentucky, December 22, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/John Sommers II

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators are set to fine 13 logistics firms, including UPS, Panalpina and Expeditors, on Wednesday for taking part in a cartel, two people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

A European Commission document seen by Reuters also confirmed that a decision and fines would be announced on Wednesday.

Deutsche Post unit DHL Global Forwarding, which took part in the cartel but alerted the regulator to the collusion, will escape a financial penalty, the people with knowledge of the case told Reuters. The company confirmed this.

The European Commission charged the firms in February 2010 with fixing prices in the air freight forwarding business, in breach of EU antitrust rules. The charges followed raids on the companies three years earlier.

"The Commission's decision is expected tomorrow," said one of the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. The EU watchdog can fine companies up to 10 percent of their annual turnover for breaching EU rules.

A separate Commission document obtained by Reuters listed other members of the cartel as CEVA/EGL, Deutsche Bahn's logistics unit Schenker AG, Germany's Hellmann Worldwide Logistics and Japanese firm Kintetsu World Express.

Other companies named were Switzerland's Kuehne & Nagel, Nippon Express (China), Kuwaiti firm Agility, UTi, Denmark's DSV Air & Sea SAS and Yusen Shenda Air & Sea Service.

DHL Global Forwarding has said the Commission's case related to different surcharges imposed by the firms.

UPS said the cartel investigation in Europe started in 2007.

"UPS's practice is to cooperate fully with government investigations and we continue to do so," said spokesman Norman Black.

Panalpina said it would issue a statement when the Commission publicises its decision. Expeditors and Kuehne & Nagel declined to comment.

DSV's Chief Financial Officer Jens Lund said the company could not comment ahead of the EU decision but that it did not expect a fine to impact its financial position.

The Commission said in its charge sheet that the violations took place in freight forwarding services from Europe to the United States and China, from Britain to non-European destinations and from Europe to Hong Kong and southern China.

Regulators in the United States and elsewhere have also cracked down on price-fixing in the sector.

Panalpina, Kuehne & Nagel, EGL and Schenker were among six firms fined by the U.S. Justice Department in September 2010 and around the same time regulators in New Zealand also penalized Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel, Panalpina and other firms.

The Commission imposed total fines of 10.6 billion euros ($14.06 billion) in cartel cases between 2007 and 2011, with the largest penalty, to the tune of 1.38 billion euros, imposed on a group of car glass makers in 2008.

(Additional reporting by Teis Jensen in Copenhagen, Caroline Copley in Zurich and Lynn Adler in New York; editing by Rex Merrifield and David Cowell)

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