Five Eyes focus vision on anti-competitive conduct
The Five Eyes multi-jurisdictional intelligence alliance has formed a new international working group aimed at preventing collusion from occurring in global supply chains, the ACCC announced recently.
The new coalition is set to target potential cartel conduct and exclusionary arrangements involving companies with substantial market power. The new task force will meet fortnightly and will involve intelligence sharing between the competition authorities of each of the Five Eyes nations: the ACCC, US Department of Justice and FBI, Canadian Competition Bureau, NZ Commerce Commission, and UK Competition and Markets Authority.
In light of COVID-19 related supply chain disruptions, the task force will focus on the supply and distribution of goods, particularly in the shipping and freighting industry. The ACCC has noted the higher freight rates and more expensive goods for consumers caused by increased demand for containerised cargo, as well as heavy congestion in global supply chains, causing delays across the economy. By way of example, the cost of shipping containers is reportedly five-times more expensive than it was before the pandemic began in 2019.
The task force will have access to the intelligence gathering power of the US FBI, with ACCC Chair Rod Sims stating that “the purpose of the working group is to detect any attempts by businesses to use these conditions as a cover to work together and fix prices”. The ACCC has made clear that international cooperation is a crucial element of effective oversight in this industry, given the multi-jurisdictional nature of the global freight supply chain.
This working group adds to a number of existing formal and informal alliances between the Five Eyes nations’ competition authorities, which aim to strengthen global protection against anti-competitive conduct across multiple jurisdictions. In September 2020, the Multilateral Mutual Assistance and Cooperation Framework for Competition Authorities was established by the US Department of Justice, US Federal Trade Commission, the UK Competition and Markets Authority, the New Zealand Commerce Commission, the Competition Bureau Canada, and the ACCC. The ACCC and the FBI also signed a cooperation agreement to combat cartels in April 2019.
This post was written by Grace Saltearn and Aarthi Sridharan.