The European Commission has imposed fines of over €79m on four companies for allocating sales volumes and fixing prices for sodium chlorate, an oxidizing agent used mainly for bleaching in the pulp and paper industry.
According to the commission, EKA Chemicals, Akzo Nobel, Finnish Chemicals, Erikem Luxembourg, Arkema France, Elf Aquitaine, Aragonesas Industrias y Energia and Uralita all colluded to fix prices between late 1994 and 2000.
Akzo Nobel and its subsidiary EKA Chemicals received full immunity from fines under the Commission’s 2002 Leniency Programme, as they were first to provide information about the cartel.
Finnish Chemicals’ fine was reduced by 50 per cent to just over €10m because it co-operated with the investigation. But the fine imposed on Arkema France was increased by 90 per cent to €59m, as the company is a repeat offender – it has been condemned for three previous cartels before this one.
This is the first time under the 2006 fines guidelines that the Commission has increased the fine to a company because of previous involvement in three cartels.
Sodium chlorate is mainly used to produce chlorine dioxide, which is used in the pulp and paper industry for the bleaching of chemical pulp.