Cartel rumbled

The European Commission has today imposed fines totalling nearly 70 million Euros on a number of companies allegedly involved in operating an organic peroxide products cartel.

The European Commission has today imposed fines totalling nearly 70 million Euros on Atofina, Peroxid Chemie, Laporte (now known as Degussa UK Holdings), Perorsa and AC Treuhand AG.

The companies were found guilty by the Commission of operating a cartel in the market for organic peroxide products, a chemical used in the plastic and rubber industries.

AC Treuhand is not a producer but a Swiss-based consultancy company. Because it played a key role in the cartel from the end of 1993, organising meetings and hiding incriminating evidence, it was also found to have violated EU law.

Atofina was fined 43.5 million Euros, Degussa SA’s UK subsidiary 16.7 million Euros and Peroxid Chemie 8.8 million Euros. Smaller penalties were levied against Perorsa (500,000 Euros) and AC Treuhand AG (1000 Euros).

According the Commission, the fines would have been much higher had Akzo, which also participated in the price-fixing agreement, not received full immunity for being the first to reveal the cartel’s existence.

Evidence gathered by the Commission found that the main producers of organic peroxides in Europe conspired to raise prices and share out markets for organic peroxides between January 1971 and the end of 1999. The market is said to be worth around 250 million Euros a year in the European Economic Area.

The cartel was founded by Akzo, Luperox (later absorbed by Atochem which, in the meantime, has been renamed Atofina) and Peroxid Chemie. Peroxidos Organicos (Perorsa) of Spain joined the cartel in 1975 and Laporte (bought by Degussa and renamed as Degussa UK Ltd. in 2001) joined in 1992, after it took full control of Peroxid Chemie.