Copper cartel fined millions

The European Commission has decided to fine a group of companies 222.3 million Euros for operating a 12-year cartel in the European market for copper water, heating and gas tubes.

The companies fined are Sweden’s Boliden group, Halcor of Greece, HME Nederland, the UK-based IMI group, the KME group (Germany, Italy and France), Mueller Industries, (USA, UK and France), Finland’s Outokumpu and Wieland Werke AG of Germany.

The Commission was informed about the illegal behaviour in January 2001, when Mueller Industries approached it under the 1996 Leniency Notice, which enables a company to escape a fine if it is the first to reveal the existence of a cartel.

An investigation by the Commission then discovered that the companies had operated a cartel between June 1988 and March 2001 that allocated production volumes and market shares, set price targets and price increases for plain copper plumbing tubes. It also found that the KME and the Wieland groups had operated a similar cartel for plastic-coated copper plumbing tubes.

The Commission imposed a fine of 32.6 million Euros on Boliden AB, Boliden Fabrication AB and Boliden Cuivre & Zinc SA, 9.16 million Euros on Halcor SA, 4.49 million Euros on HME Nederland BV, 44.98 million Euros on IMI plc, IMI Kynoch and Yorkshire Copper Tube, and 67.08 million Euros on KM Europa Metal AG, Tréfimétaux SA and Europa Metalli SpA.

Outokumpu Oyj and Outokumpu Copper Products OY were fined 36.14 million Euros, while Wieland Werke AG, Austria Buntmetall AG and Buntmetall Amstetten GmbH were fined 27.84 million Euros.

Mueller Industries, WTC Holding Company, Mueller Europe, the DENO Holding Company and DENO Acquisition escaped the fine.

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