Ferry operators P&O and DFDS will address concerns over their capacity-sharing agreement after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation.
Under the agreement signed in May 2021, cargo customers on the Dover to Calais route can board the next available ship, regardless of who operates it.
After it launched an inquiry in November last year, the CMA found that the agreement led to higher prices and fewer sailings, as departures were spread more evenly and some services were cancelled.
Responding to the competition authority’s concerns, the two companies have agreed to put a limit on sailings they can cancel as well as not sharing the number of services they operate with each other.
While the CMA is set to accept the commitments, it has announced it will launch a consultation.
“We found the agreement between P&O Ferries and DFDS was at risk of breaking competition law and could ultimately lead to higher prices and fewer sailings taking place – which is why we stepped in,” said CMA’s executive director of enforcement Michael Grenfell.
“We have taken a close look at the commitments offered by these firms, and will also carefully consider any responses to our consultation, to see whether our concerns are addressed.
“If they aren’t, our investigation will continue.”
A spokesperson for DFDS called the CMA accepting the commitments “a positive step towards offering more flexibility, reduced waiting times and congestion at the port, and saving our freight customers significant time on their overall journey time.”
P&O made the headlines earlier this year when it received nation-wide criticism after it sacked 800 seafarers in March and replaced them with cheaper labour.
Late last month, both the Home Office and the Department for Transport rescinded a contract with the disgraced operator to provide travel services for British staff that worked in Belgium and France as border control.
The decision was part of the government’s crackdown against the company.