A SHIPPING company is facing a potential $10 million fine after driving up delivery costs on as many as a million cars, trucks and buses it delivered to Australia.
However, questions remain over whether car companies and buyers – who would have potentially paid more for cars as a result – will be compensated.
Japan-based Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, known as NYK, pleaded guilty in the Federal Court this week to criminal cartel conduct after Australia’s consumer watchdog alleged it had colluded with others over the cost of transporting cars here.
The brands affected include Suzuki, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Toyota, Isuzu and Fiat Chrysler vehicles that were shipped to Australia from factories in India, Thailand, Japan, the US and Europe.
Toyota is the largest brand in Australia – selling more than 206,000 vehicles here last year – with almost all of them imported. Mazda was Australia’s second-largest brand in 2015, selling about 114,000 cars, while Nissan was the sixth-largest brand with around 66,000 sales. Because the charges relate to cars brought here between July 2009 and September 2012, as many as a million vehicles could be affected.
“This is the first criminal charge laid against a corporation under the criminal cartel provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said.
However, a spokesman for the ACCC said the consumer watchdog was not able to say how many car buyers had been affected by the cartel, nor how much extra they would have had paid in shipping prices compared with if free market forces had applied.
The Federal Department of Public Prosecutions – which is bringing the charges before the court – said it was also unable to comment on how many vehicles were affected while the matter was still being heard. It was also unable to say if car owners would be compensated as part of any penalties imposed on NYK by the court.