Tag: european commission

On 11 November, the European Commission announced that it was imposing fines totalling €173 million on plastic additives producers for operating a price fixing and market sharing cartel. There were 24 companies involved in the cartel. As Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, 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”.

An interesting feature of this particular case is that one of the companies fined is AC Treuhand, a Swiss-based consultancy company. It is not a plastics producer, but took on the role of organising the cartel. Neelie Kroes said that “the company’s Swiss premises were chosen for secret meetings of cartel participants as they were outside the EU and beyond the commission’s jurisdiction. This made it harder for the watchdog to seize documents.”

Antitrust: Commission fines plastic additives producers €173 million for price fixing and market sharing cartels Europa Press Release (11/11/09)
FACTBOX-EU fines heat stabilisers cartel 173 mln euros Reuters (11/11/09)
EU fines consultant for alleged cartel role Financial Times, Nikki Tait (11/11/09)
EU cartel fine for plastics firms BBC News (11/11/09)
EU fines plastics cartel euro173 million Forbes (11/11/09)

Questions

  1. What conditions must apply if a cartel is to succeed in raising prices? To what extent did these conditions apply to the plastic additives cartel?
  2. What powers does the European Commission have under Article 81 of the Treaty of Amsterdam? (See and also. See also page 369 in Sloman and Wride Economics 7th ed.)
  3. Are cartel activities necessarily against the interests of the consumer? Explain.

The European Commission has fined four glass companies, including the UK firm Pilkington, for operating a price-fixing cartel in the market for car glass. As part of the cartel, managers in the firms, met in secret to fix prices and carve up the market between them. The largest single fine was handed down to the firm Saint-Gobain, the owner of the UK plasterboard group BPB. Saint-Gobain was fined 896 million euros. The four firms between them controlled around 90% of the market for car glass at the time the cartel operated.

Glassmakers fined record €1.4bn for price-fixing by European regulators Guardian (13/11/08)
Europe fines glassmakers record €1.4bn Times Online (12/11/08)

Questions

  1. Explain what is meant by a cartel and how it is able to increase the profits of its members.
  2. What market conditions are most likely to lead to the formation of a cartel?
  3. Compare and contrast the role of the UK Competition Commission and the European Commission in maintaining competitive markets.
  4. Evaluate two policies that can be used by governments to prevent price-fixing.