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Feds Say Carriers Overcharged Guam

June 6, 1998

HONOLULU (AP) _ Guam wants a $23 million refund from two companies accused of overcharging shippers for everything from corn flakes to cars over three years, resulting in higher prices for thousands of residents.

The Federal Maritime Commission ruled that Sea-Land Service Inc. and American President Lines Ltd. blatantly overcharged shippers on the West Coast-Guam route from 1988 to 1990. The ocean carriers earned up to three times more on the route than allowed by federal rules.

As a result, Guam residents and U.S. soldiers on the island paid higher prices for food, clothing, appliances, furniture and cars. Virtually everything used on the island 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii is shipped in.

This week’s ruling said the companies must repay only a fraction of the extra earnings to the government of Guam and four private shippers because they were the only ones named in the original 1989 complaint.

Guam Gov. Carl Gutierrez said that is wrong.

``I am going to fight to return the entire $23 million to the people of Guam, from whom these dollars should never have been taken in the first place,″ he said.

The U.S. territory will ask a federal appeals court in Washington to order a full refund to all 146,000 Guamanians, much like a class-action lawsuit. Guam also is considering whether to file a complaint for the years after 1990.

Both Sea-Land and APL are among the largest cargo container carriers in the world.

Sea-Land, based in Charlotte, N.C., overcharged Guam by nearly $6.3 million in 1988 and 1989, the FMC said. The company did not return a telephone call seeking comment Tuesday.

APL, of Oakland, Calif., overcharged Guam by more than $16.7 million in 1988-90, the FMC said.

Company spokesman John Pachtner said many of the issues in the case are moot since APL pulled out of the Guam trade two years ago. He said company lawyers were reviewing the 132-page decision before deciding whether to appeal.

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