The European Commission is fining a number of plastics additives producers, including Ciba, Elf Aquitaine and Baerlocher, €173.9m for price fixing and market sharing cartels.
According to the Commission, Akzo, Baerlocher, Ciba, Elementis, Elf Aquitaine (Arkema France), GEA, Chemson, Faci, Reagens and AC Treuhand fixed prices and exchanged sensitive commercial information about tin stabilisers between 1987 and 2000, and about ESBO/esters between 1991 and 2000.
The combined markets for tin stabilisers and ESBO/esters in the EEA were worth around €121m during this period.
In a statement, Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: - These companies must learn the hard way that breaking the law does not pay and that repeat offenders will face stiffer penalties. The companies’ elaborate precautions to cover their tracks did not prevent the Commission from revealing the full extent of their determined efforts to rip-off their customers.
The heaviest fine was imposed on Ciba (€68.4m) followed by Akzo Nobel (€40.6m).
A spokesperson for BASF, which acquired Ciba in April this year, told European Plastics News the company will appeal the fine, adding that Ciba sold the businesses accused of price fixing in 1998.
Akzo Nobel says it is taking time to “analyse the merits of the decision”, stressing that it has a "strict zero tolerance policy throughout Akzo Nobel for any anti-competitive behaviour”.
Baerlocher refused to comment, while Chemson and Elf did not respond in time for publication.
Swiss consultancy AC Treuhand was also fined €348,000 for aiding the cartel and hosting monthly meetings at its Zurich offices.
The regulators increased the Arkema/Elf Aquitaine fine because it has been found guilty of joining cartels before. However, Arkema, along with Baerlocher and Ciba, had their fines reduced because they cooperated with investigations.