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Ship Owners’ Insurance Clubs Come Under EU Microscope

Posted  September 1, 2010

The European Commission has opened a probe to investigate whether marine-insurance agreements among ship owners in the International Group of P&I Clubs (“IG”) restrict competition by blocking rivals from the market.

The IG is comprised of 13 worldwide “protection and indemnity” clubs of ship owners, which together provide insurance to approximately 93 percent of ocean ships.

The Commission is concerned that certain provisions in the IG’s marine-insurance agreements may restrict competition by blocking commercial insurers or other mutual P&I insurers from the relevant market by restricting access to ship owners.  The Commission stated that it “fears that the provisions at stake in the agreements … may harm ship owners and the insurers that are not members of the IG.”

The provisions at issue involve claim-sharing and joint-reinsurance agreements as well as rules which govern the contractual relationships between the clubs and their members.

The probe follows the recent expiration of a 10-year antitrust exemption enjoyed by the P&I agreements under European Union regulations.  Although the EU in April again created certain antitrust exceptions for the insurance industry, the P&I agreements were not included among them because their market share rises far above the 20-25 percent maximum provided for by EU competition regulations.

In response to the investigation, the IG stated that “there have been no relevant or material changes to the arrangements or in the market for P&I cover” since regulators last reviewed the agreements in 1999.

The Commission launched the investigation on its own initiative, even though there have been no complaints regarding these agreements.  There is currently no deadline for completing the investigation.

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues,