The European Commission has fined 16 firms €290.71 million for operating a cartel in the plastic industrial bags market, in violation of EC Treaty rules which forbid cartels and other restrictive business practices.
The EC says that the firms agreed amongst themselves on prices and sales quotas by geographical area, shared the orders of large customers, organised collusive bidding for invitations to tender and exchanged information on their sales volumes, to the detriment of competition, their customers and consumers.
Plastic industrial bags are used to pack various products, mainly of an industrial nature, but also products destined for consumers, such as raw materials, fertilizer, agricultural products, animal feed and building materials.
After surprise inspections of producers in June 2002 and the investigations that followed, the Commission found that the firms had secretly agreed amongst themselves, some for over 20 years, on sales prices in Germany, the Benelux countries, France and Spain.
The Commission started investigating on the basis of information brought to its attention by one of the members of the cartel, British Polythene Industries (BPI), under the Commission’s antitrust leniency arrangement. As a result, BPI enjoyed full immunity for being the first to provide the Commission with the decisive evidence of the cartel’s existence which allowed inspections to be organised.
Those fines in full