The European Commission has fined several leading plastics companies over €173m (£156m) for violating the EC Treaty’s ban on cartels and restrictive business practices.
Akzo, Baerlocher, Ciba, Elementis, Elf Aquitaine (Arkema France), GEA, Chemson, Faci, Reagens and AC Treuhand – as well as Chemtura Corporation – fixed prices, shared customers, allocated markets and exchanged sensitive commercial information for tin stabilisers and ESBO/esters heat stabilisers between 1987 and 2000.
Chemtura Corporation participated in the cartel but was not fined because it revealed the existence of the cartels to the Commission. Fines on Arkema France, Baerlocher and Ciba were reduced for cooperating with the Commission investigation, but Arkema France’s fine was increased by 90 per cent as it had previously taken part in similar cartels.
Tin stabilisers are used to avoid decomposition caused by heat during the processing of PVC into final products. They are mainly used in rigid and plasticised PVC. ESBO/esters are used as plasticisers and heat stabilisers for plasticised PVC products.
The combined markets for tin stabilisers and ESBO/esters in the EEA were worth some €121m (£109m) at the time of the infringement. These heat stabilisers are used in packaging, food packaging, credit cards, bottles, coatings, flooring, artificial leather, plastic wallpaper and other everyday plastic products.
Neelie Kroes, competition commissioner, 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.’