Rep. Wild combats price gouging, anti-competitive practices in shipping sector

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) and 14 of her colleagues wrote to the chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission Wednesday, urging the commission to take stronger action against price-gouging and anti-competitive business practices in the global maritime shipping sector.

Large shipping alliances engaging in price gouging and anti-competitive behavior have endangered the success of small- and medium-sized businesses in Pennsylvania and across the country, the Congressmembers said in their letter.

“Over the past few months, I have been speaking with a number of business owners in our community about these challenges. The outrageous cost increases and hostile practices we are seeing are a threat to local businesses that employ workers in every corner of the Greater Lehigh Valley,” Wild said. “Protecting these jobs requires making sure that our businesses can import and export items at reasonable cost and under reasonable circumstances.”

The letter said that shipping costs had increased excessively during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that other practices by ocean carriers threatened the livelihood of some businesses.

“For constituents across our communities who have built small and medium-sized businesses that rely on reasonable shipping costs and reliable business practices, the price-gouging and turmoil in this market during the COVID-19 pandemic have come at a major cost,” the letter said. “During this period, shipping container shortages caused by broader global supply chain disruptions have dramatically increased shipping costs. Recent reporting has shown 2021 costs in certain cases to be more than 14 times higher than they were at the same time two years ago. These unprecedented cost increases — combined with a rise in anti-competitive business practices, including instances in which our constituents have seen ocean carriers refuse to honor pre-existing contracts — have come to represent a major threat to businesses in our communities.”

The letter posed several questions to the FMC Chairman, Daniel B. Maffei, on how the FMC plans to oversee and enforce existing rules on the behavior. The letter also urged the commission to present plans for stricter rules on the behavior. The Congressmembers make clear that they are prepared to work on legislation that would give the FMC additional authorities to set modern policies regarding the global shipping sector.

Liz Carey

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