The cost to import your car to the United States may have been too high because of alleged price fixing by a small group of companies that control the car shipping industry. These inflated costs may have been passed on to you when you purchased or leased a new, imported car. As a result, you may be entitled to a partial refund of the shipping costs associated with your car.
Type of Lawsuit
Class action lawsuits have been filed against a group of car shipping companies that allegedly conspired to fix and artificially inflate the prices charged for importing cars and trucks to the United States. The lawsuits have been filed in the wake of investigations and raids of several shipping companies by U.S., European, and Japanese antitrust authorities who are examining claims of illegal price fixing. Because shipping costs are incorporated into the price of foreign cars, anyone who bought or leased an imported car may have unknowingly been a victim of this fraud. According to court documents, new car buyers in the United States who purchased or leased an imported car anytime after October 2008 may be eligible to participate in this antitrust class action.
Which Cars Are Affected?
If you purchased or leased an imported car made by one of the following companies, you may be eligible to receive compensation:
Antitrust Lawsuits: Car Shipping Companies Conspired to Fix Prices
The antitrust lawsuits allege that certain maritime shipping companies participated in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in the overseas car shipping market by agreeing to fix the prices of importing cars to the United States. The companies named in the class actions own and operate so-called “Roll-on/Roll-off” ships that are used to import foreign-made cars and trucks.
As reported in the financial press and described in detail in the lawsuits, the price of maritime vehicle carrier services has increased by approximately 23% since 2008, despite an oversupply of shipping capacity due to the global financial crisis. According to the class action lawsuits, the car shipping companies had ample opportunities to meet and conspire at events like trade shows and through various agreements. Many of the shipping companies named in the lawsuit have previously been fined over price fixing in shipping other types of goods.
The lawsuits allege that the following companies violated federal antitrust law by colluding with each other to fix car import prices:
NYK Line North America Inc.
Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOK), Ltd.
Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd.
“K” Line America, Inc.
EUKOR Vehicle Carriers, Inc.
Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL)
Compañía Sud Americana De Vapores S.A.
Toyofuji Shipping Co., Ltd. (the shipping affiliate of Toyota)
Nissan Motor Car Carrier Co., Ltd
The antitrust class actions assert that the maritime shipping companies listed above violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, as well as state unfair competition and consumer protection laws.
Antitrust Authorities Worldwide Are Investigating Car Shipping Price-Fixing Allegations
United States, Canadian, Japanese, and European antitrust authorities have initiated a global, coordinated price-fixing investigation regarding the allegedly unlawful conspiracy. In September of 2012, officials in Japan raided the Japanese office of NYK Line, MOK, “K” Line, WWL, and EUKOR in connection with an investigation into anticompetitive behavior in the Roll-On Roll-Off carrier services market. In coordination with Japanese antitrust authorities, the European Commission has also carried out unannounced inspections at the European offices of several of the maritime shipping companies named in the lawsuit.
Furthermore, the United States Department of Justice is also investigating potential antitrust violations committed by the shipping companies. A spokesperson for the United States Department of Justice has stated that “[t]he antitrust division is investigating the possibility of anticompetitive practices involving the ocean shipping of cars, trucks, construction equipment, and other products.”
As reported in the Japan Daily Press at the time of the raids, the shipping companies formed a cartel “to deal with rising fuel charges, personnel costs and shipbuilding expenses” and to control and manipulate the transport orders from carmakers.
More Than Two Dozen Antitrust Lawsuits Filed
Attorneys representing foreign car buyers and leaseholders have filed over 25 lawsuits in federal courts across the country against major Roll-On/Roll-Off companies. On October 18, 2013, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued an order consolidating six of the lawsuits into a multidistrict litigation (“MDL”). The purpose of an MDL is to centralize similar lawsuits to avoid duplicative efforts and increase the efficiency of the judicial process.
In creating the MDL, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ruled that the consolidated lawsuits “share factual questions relating to allegations that defendants conspired to fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize the price of vehicle carrier services.” Judge Ester Salas of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey will preside over the MDL, which is referred to as “In Re: Vehicle Carrier Services Antitrust Litigation.”
The order creating the MDL transferred the following lawsuits to the District of New Jersey:
Joan MacQuarrie, et al. v. Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, et al., C.A. No. 3:13-02409, filed in the Northern District of California
David Schroeder v. Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, et al., C.A. No. 3:13-01319, filed in the Southern District of California
Kenneth A. Nelson, et al. v. Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, et al., C.A. No. 3:13-00604, filed in the Middle District of Florida
Esteban Adame v. Nippon Yesen Kabushiki Kaisha, et al., C.A. No. 3:13-00651, filed in the Middle District of Florida
F. Ruggiero & Sons, Inc., et al. v. NYK Line (North America) Inc., et al., C.A. No. 2:13-03306, filed in the District of New Jersey
Bethanne Knudson v. NYK Line (North America) Inc., et al., C.A. No. 2:13-3485, filed in the District of New Jersey
Following the creation of the MDL, 22 more imported car antitrust class actions have also been transferred to Judge Salas’s chambers.