Multi-million fines for port of Barcelona “cartel” firms

National Competition Commission had sanctioned companies in 2008

The business of transporting containers in the port of Barcelona between 2006 and 2011 was subjugated by a "cartel" that prevented free competition, the National Competition Commission (CMC) has ruled.

Fines totaling 20 million euros have been handed down to two transport associations operating at the port, which signed an agreement fixing tariffs and commercial conditions. The Port Authority of Barcelona is also implicated for issuing costing guidelines that were taken to be official by the rest of the companies at the port.

The Logistic Association of Container Transport (ALTC) was fined 15.2 million euros and Transcont (now known as Cotraport) 5.25 million euros.

The two companies' control over activity at Barcelona's port even included the choice of companies that were eligible to work there. If successful, applicants received a sticker that they were required to display on their vehicles. No transport companies were able to fix their own tariffs, which were decided by ALTC with the consensus of Transcont and presented as "port tariffs."

Both companies have fallen foul of the CDC in the past. In 2008 both ALTC and Transcont were fined six million euros. Despite launching appeals, the sanctions were upheld against both firms by the High Court last year.

The Port Authority of Barcelona has also stated it will appeal. It denies "any actions potentially restrictive to free competition" and said its only involvement had been guided by "the search for dialogue and social harmony."

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