Price fixing cases

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This is a partial list of notable price fixing and bid rigging cases.

US[edit]

Air Travel[edit]

On 1 August 2007 it was reported that British Airways has been fined £121.5 million[1] for price-fixing. The fine was imposed by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) after BA admitted to the price-fixing of fuel surcharges on long haul flights. The allegation first came to light in 2006 when Virgin Atlantic reported the events to the authorities after it found staff members from BA and Virgin Atlantic were colluding. Virgin Atlantic have since been granted immunity by both the OFT and the United States Department of Justice who have been investigating the allegations since June 2006. The US DOJ later announced that it would fine British Airways $300 million (£148 million) for price fixing.

The allegations are thought to be linked to the resignation of commercial director Martin George and communications chief Iain Burns. Although BA said fuel surcharges were "a legitimate way of recovering costs", in May 2007 it put aside £350 million for legal fees and fines.

Other[edit]

Denmark[edit]

EU Convictions[edit]

Beer[edit]

On 18 April 2007 The European commission imposed fines on Heineken €219.3m, Grolsch €31.65m and Bavaria €22.85m for operating a price fixing cartel in the Netherlands, totalling €273.7m. InBev, (formerly Interbrew), escaped without a penalty because it provided "decisive information" about the cartel which operated between 1996 and 1999 and others in the EU market. The brewers controlled 95% of the Dutch market, with Heineken claiming a half and the three others 15% each.[2]

Neelie Kroes said she was "very disappointed" that the collusion took place at the very highest (boardroom) level. She added, Heineken, Grolsch, Bavaria and InBev tried to cover their tracks by using code names and abbreviations for secret meetings to carve up the market for beer sold to supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and cafes. The price fixing extended to cheaper own-brand labels and rebates for bars.[2]

In December 2001 Interbrew, Danone (former owner of Kronenbourg), and two other smaller brewers were fined €91m for operating a cartel in Belgium while four Luxembourg companies were fined €448,000 the same month.[2]

In 2004 Heineken and Kronenbourg, the two dominant brewers in France, were fined €2.5m - with the penalty reduced for co-operating. A similar inquiry into an alleged Italian cartel was closed without proceedings while the British and German beer markets were specifically excluded.[2]

Switchgear[edit]

In January 2007 Siemens was fined €396 million over its role in a collusion scandal. The European Commission handed out a massive €750 million in fines to Siemens, Alstom, Areva, Schneider Electric and Japanese firms Fuji Electric, Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric, Toshiba and Japan AE Systems. Switzerland's ABB Group was a whistleblower and escaped without any fine from the Commission.[3] Regulators found that the companies rigged bids for contracts and fixed prices in the market for gas-insulated switchgear - equipment is used to control the flow of energy in electricity grids. Siemens' fine was the biggest of the companies involved because it was a ringleader, the Commission said. About 30 business premises and private homes were searched as part of the investigation.

The cartel swapped information on offers from customers and operated a quota system for the division of work. Bids were rigged so that tenders went to whichever firm was due work under the quota system. "Code names were used for both companies and individuals. They relied on anonymous email addresses for communication and used encryption for sending messages,” said the Commission.[4][5]

"The commission has put an end to a cartel which has cheated public utility companies and consumers for more than 16 years," said EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.[4]

UK[edit]

Dairy Products[edit]

On 7 December 2007, Sainsbury's, Asda, Safeway, Dairy Crest, Robert Wiseman Dairies and The Cheese Company have all admitted that they had secretly swapped information with each other to make shoppers pay more for milk and cheese in a £270m price-fixing conspiracy.[6] The cartel agreed in principle with the Office of Fair Trading that they conspired against the interests of consumers. In their defense, the corporations have publicly said they had been under pressure to help farmers hit by foot-and-mouth, however, the OFT said "I think it is reasonable to say we don't doubt the purpose initially was to pass money back to farmers but, in general, there is no evidence that farm gate price increased as a result of the initiative. We don't know what happened to the money."

All the major UK store chains, with the exception of Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, are embroiled in the OFT inquiry into milk prices in 2002 and 2003 which has been ongoing since the beginning of 2004. It was accepted by Asda, Sainsbury and Safeway that stores increased the price of milk as a result of collusion. Dairy Crest and Wiseman allegedly acted as middle men, passing on sensitive information about prices to their supposed rivals. Britain's biggest store chain Tesco, and Morrison, are accused of collusion too, but vigorously deny they took part. The allegations against Tesco involve cheese as well as milk and butter.[7]

If the OFT proves its case, the retailers could theoretically face fines of up to 10 per cent of their worldwide turnover, which in Tesco's case would amount to £4.3bn. The Office of Fair Trading told Sainsbury's, Asda, Safeway, Dairy Crest, Wiseman and The Cheese Company they faced maximum fines of £116m, though the final figure may be as low as £80m as a result of their co-operation. Sainsbury's told the London Stock Exchange that its fine was £26m. The fine for Safeway is thought to be between £8m and £10m; £9m for Dairy Crest and £6m for Robert Wiseman. It is unclear who blew the whistle on the price-fixing but Arla, the dairy processor, will escape a fine after fully co-operating with authorities. Consumer advocate Which? Ltd complained that, despite overpaying £270m, consumers would not receive any refunds.[8]

Construction[edit]

In April 2008, The Office of Fair Trading named 112 companies that it says colluded to inflate the cost of a wide range of contracts worth billions of pounds, including tenders for schools, universities and hospitals.[9]

The list includes several publicly listed companies, including Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Carillion, with 80 of the firms have already admitted participating in some form of bid-rigging, or have applied for leniency in return for assisting the OFT. The allegations centre around "cover pricing", in which firms secretly agreed the prices they would submit during a tender process. A firm that did not want to win the contract would submit a price that was much too high. In some cases, the eventual successful bidder would then reward them with a secret payment. This bid rigging often involved false invoices. The OFT declined to comment on the value of the fraud.[9]

Financial[edit]

In April 2003, The London office of ABN Amro was fined £900,000 for helping a US client, Oechsle International Advisers, to rig share prices. The fine was the FSA's fifth biggest, and is the largest involving market abuse on the London Stock Exchange.[10]

ABN's then joint head of the UK equity trading desk, Michael Ackers, has been fined £70,000 for "market misconduct." The FSA decided that traders in ABN Amro Equities (UK), known as AAE, "accepted improper instructions whose apparent purpose was to push the closing market price of certain shares to a higher level than would otherwise have been the case". This happened on three separate occasions between April and October 1998 in respect of shares in Carlton Communications, British Biotech, Volkswagen and Metro. Angelo Iannone, the head of ABN's international sales trading desk in New York, had had a long-standing relationship with Oechsle and one of its fund managers, Andrew Parlin. They agreed to increase the price of the shares in question at the end of certain days' trading, to make the prices look better in clients' portfolios.[10]

Australia[edit]

Airlines[edit]

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken several airlines to the Federal Court of Australia seeking penalties for alleged price fixing contraventions. As of 2011, the ACCC's activities are:

Qantas Airways Ltd[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings against Qantas seeking penalties for alleged price fixing contraventions relating to fuel surcharges applied to international carriage of air cargo between 2002 and early 2006.[12] The conduct concerned collusion between competitors over fuel surcharges which the ACCC alleged and Qantas admitted had the purpose and likely effect of fixing or maintaining a component of the price for air cargo services. The Federal Court in Sydney ordered Qantas Airways Limited to pay $20 million in pecuniary penalties for breaching the price fixing provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974.[13][14][15]

British Airways PLC[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings against British Airways PLC (BA) seeking penalties for alleged price fixing contraventions relating to fuel surcharges applied to international carriage of air cargo between 2002 and early 2006.[12] The Federal Court in Sydney ordered British Airways PLC to pay $5 million in pecuniary penalties for breaching the price fixing provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission instituted proceedings alleging British Airways reached an understanding with Lufthansa Cargo Aktiengesellschaft (Lufthansa) in relation to the imposition of fuel surcharges on some of its international air cargo services between 2002 and early 2006.[16][17]

Singapore Airlines Cargo Pte Ltd[edit]

The ACCC alleged that Singapore Airlines Cargo Pte Ltd, between 2001 and 2005, entered into arrangements or understandings with other international air cargo carriers that had the purpose or effect of fixing the price of a fuel surcharge and a security surcharge that was applied to air cargo carried by Singapore Airlines Cargo Pte Ltd and other airlines including to and from Australia.[18][19]

Société Air France (Air France)[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings against Air France seeking penalties for alleged price fixing between early 2003 and 2006. The alleged contraventions relate to fuel surcharges applied to international carriage of air cargo during that period.[20] The Federal Court in Sydney ordered pecuniary penalties ($6 million in total with KLM) for breaching the price fixing provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974. The ACCC alleged the airline reached understandings with other international airlines in relation to the imposition of fuel surcharges applied to international carriage of air cargo during that period between early 2003 and 2006. Air France admitted to making and giving effect to illegal price fixing understandings with Lufthansa, repeatedly exchanging assurances with Lufthansa in the implementation of fuel surcharge increases for international carriage of air cargo across their global networks.[21][22]

Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij NV (KLM)[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings against KLM seeking penalties for alleged price fixing between early 2003 and 2006. The alleged contraventions relate to fuel surcharges applied to international carriage of air cargo during that period.[23] The Federal Court in Sydney ordered pecuniary penalties ($6 million in total with Air France) for breaching the price fixing provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974. The ACCC alleged the airline reached understandings with other international airlines in relation to the imposition of fuel surcharges applied to international carriage of air cargo during that period between early 2003 and 2006. KLM admitted to making and giving effect to illegal price fixing understandings with Lufthansa, repeatedly exchanging assurances with Lufthansa in the implementation of fuel surcharge increases for international carriage of air cargo across their global networks.[21][22]

Martinair Holland NV (Martinair)[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings against Martinair seeking penalties for alleged price fixing between early 2003 and 2006. The alleged contraventions relate to fuel surcharges applied to international carriage of air cargo during that period.[23] The Federal Court in Sydney ordered pecuniary penalties of $5 million for breaching the price fixing provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974. The ACCC alleged the airline reached understandings with other international airlines in relation to the imposition of fuel surcharges applied to international carriage of air cargo during that period between early 2003 and 2006. Martinair admitted that by no later than early 2003, it had arrived and gave effect to illegal price fixing understandings with KLM and Cargolux that they would have discussions and exchange and confirm information with each other in relation to the application of fuel surcharges on cargo carried internationally by air across their respective global networks.[21][22]

Cargolux International Airlines S.A. (Cargolux)[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings against Cargolux seeking penalties for alleged price fixing between early 2003 and 2006. The alleged contraventions relate to fuel surcharges applied to international carriage of air cargo during that period.[23] The Federal Court in Sydney ordered pecuniary penalties of $5 million for breaching the price fixing provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974. The ACCC alleged the airline reached understandings with other international airlines in relation to the imposition of fuel surcharges applied to international carriage of air cargo during that period between early 2003 and 2006. Cargolux admitted to making and giving effect to illegal price fixing understandings with each of Lufthansa, Air France and KLM that each of them would impose a fuel surcharge on cargo carried internationally by air across their networks, (except where local conditions in a particular port or in a particular geographic area prevented the imposition, or full imposition, of the fuel surcharge).[21][22]

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Cathay Pacific. The ACCC alleged that between 2000 and 2006, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd entered into over 70 arrangements or understandings with other international air cargo carriers that had the purpose or effect of fixing the price of a fuel surcharge, a security surcharge and rates that were applied to air cargo carried by Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd and other airlines. The ACCC alleged that the arrangements or understandings were reached in countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, India, Japan and Italy. The ACCC sort declarations, injunctive relief, pecuniary penalties, and costs.[24][25]

Emirates[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Emirates. The ACCC alleged that between 2002 and 2006, Emirates entered into arrangements or understandings with other international air cargo carriers that had the purpose and effect of fixing the price of certain fuel surcharges, security surcharges and rates that were applied to air cargo carried by Emirates and other airlines. The ACCC alleged that the arrangements or understandings were reached in countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates and India. The ACCC sort declarations, injunctive relief, pecuniary penalties, and costs.[26][27]

PT Garuda Indonesia Ltd[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against PT Garuda Indonesia Ltd. The ACCC alleged that between 2001 and 2006, PT Garuda Indonesia Ltd entered into arrangements or understandings with other international air cargo carriers that had the purpose or effect of fixing the price of a fuel surcharge and a security surcharge that were applied to air cargo carried by PT Garuda Indonesia Ltd and other airlines. The ACCC alleged that the arrangements or understandings were reached in Indonesia and Hong Kong. The ACCC sort declarations, injunctive relief, pecuniary penalties, and costs.[28][29]

Thai Airways International Public Company Limited[edit]

The ACCC alleged that between 2001 and 2006, Thai Airways International entered into arrangements or understandings with other international air cargo carriers in specific countries that had the purpose or effect of fixing the price of fuel surcharges and security surcharges that were applied to air cargo carried by Thai Airways International Public Company Limited and other airlines. The ACCC alleged that the arrangements or understandings were reached in Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong – plus Thailand in the case of a security surcharge called a crisis surcharge – for surcharges applied to cargo originating in those countries. The ACCC sort declarations, injunctive relief, pecuniary penalties, and costs.[30][31]

Korean Air Lines Co. Ltd[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Korean Air. The ACCC alleged that between 2001 and 2006, Korean Air Lines Co. Ltd entered into arrangements or understandings with other international air cargo carriers that had the purpose or effect of fixing the price of a fuel surcharge, a security surcharge and a customs fee that were applied to air cargo carried by Korean Air Lines Co. Ltd and other airlines. The ACCC alleged that the arrangements or understandings were reached in Korea, Indonesia and Hong Kong for surcharges applied to cargo originating in those countries and in Indonesia for a customs fee applied to cargo originating in that country. The ACCC sort declarations, injunctive relief, pecuniary penalties, and costs.[32][33]

Malaysian Airline System Berhad[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Malaysian Airline System Berhad and its wholly owned cargo subsidiary Malaysia Airlines Cargo Sdn Bhd. The ACCC alleged that between 2001 and 2006, Malaysian Airline System Berhad and Malaysia Airlines Cargo Sdn Bhd entered into arrangements or understandings with other international air cargo carriers that had the purpose or effect of fixing the price of a fuel surcharge and a security surcharge that were applied to air cargo carried by them and other airlines. The ACCC alleged that arrangements or understandings were reached in Indonesia and Hong Kong for fuel surcharges applied to cargo originating in those countries. The ACCC also alleged arrangements or understandings were reached in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Singapore for a security surcharge applied to cargo originating in those countries. The ACCC sort declarations, injunctive relief, pecuniary penalties, and costs.[34][35][36]

Japan Airlines International Co., Ltd[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings in the Federal Court today against Japan Airlines International Co Ltd. The ACCC alleged that between 2002 and 2006, Japan Airlines International Co., Ltd. entered into arrangements or understandings with other international air cargo carriers that had the purpose or effect of fixing the price of a fuel surcharge and a security surcharge that were applied to air cargo carried by them and other airlines. The ACCC alleged that arrangements or understandings were reached in Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan for fuel surcharges applied to cargo originating in those countries. The ACCC also alleged arrangements or understandings were reached in Singapore and Hong Kong for a security surcharge applied to cargo originating in those countries. The ACCC sort declarations, injunctive relief, pecuniary penalties, and costs.[37][38] The Federal Court in Melbourne ordered a $5.5 million penalty against Japan Airlines International Co Ltd (JAL) for breaching the price fixing provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974*. JAL admitted to making and giving effect to illegal price fixing understandings with other international airlines that each of them would impose a fuel surcharge and an insurance and security surcharge on cargo carried internationally by air across their networks.[39]

Air New Zealand Ltd[edit]

The ACCC instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Air New Zealand. The ACCC alleged that between 2002 and 2006, Air New Zealand Ltd entered into arrangements or understandings with other international air cargo carriers that had the purpose or effect of fixing the price of a fuel surcharge and a security surcharge that were applied to air cargo carried by them and other airlines. The ACCC alleged that arrangements or understandings were reached in Singapore Hong Kong and Japan for fuel surcharges applied to cargo originating in those countries. The ACCC also alleged arrangements or understandings were reached in Singapore and Hong Kong for a security surcharge applied to cargo originating in those countries. The ACCC sort declarations, injunctive relief, pecuniary penalties, and costs.[38][40][41]

Cosmetics Skincare[edit]

In 2007 skincare cosmetics company Jurlique was fined AUD$3.4 million where the company entered into agreements with resellers where one of the terms included that the products were not to be sold for prices less than a price specified by Jurlique.[42]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "BA gets £121.5m price-fixing fine". BBC News. 8 January 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Gow, David (18 April 2007). "Heineken and Grolsch fined for price-fixing". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 1 August 2007. 
  3. ^ "Vote call by Siemens shareholders". BBC. 25 January 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2007. 
  4. ^ a b "Siemens hit with €396 million price fixing fine". Retrieved 1 August 2007. 
  5. ^ "The General Court reduces the fines of certain members of the gas insulated switchgear cartel" (PDF) (Press release). Luxembourg: General Court of the European Union. 3 March 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Supermarkets fined £116m for price-fixing
  7. ^ OFT hands out £116m in fines for milk price fixing
  8. ^ Milked! Supermarkets admit secret price-fixing
  9. ^ a b OFT issues statement of objections against 112 construction companies
  10. ^ a b ABN fined £900,000 for price rigging
  11. ^ FSA fines ABN Amro Equities 900,000 for market misconduct
  12. ^ a b ACCC launches its first cases in alleged air freight cartel, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 28 October 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  13. ^ Court orders Qantas to pay $20 million for price fixing, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 11 December 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  14. ^ Qantas cops fine for price fixing, 11 December 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  15. ^ Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Qantas Airways Limited [2008] FCA 1976 (11 December 2008), AustLII, Federal Court of Australia, 24 December 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  16. ^ Court orders British Airways PLC to pay $5 million for price fixing, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 11 December 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  17. ^ Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v British Airways PLC [2008] FCA 1977 (23 December 2008), AustLII, Federal Court of Australia, 24 December 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  18. ^ ACCC institutes proceedings against Singapore Airlines Cargo Pte Ltd for alleged price-fixing, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 22 December 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  19. ^ Singapore Airlines to defend ACCC price fixing claim, ABC News, 22 December 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  20. ^ ACCC institutes proceedings against more airlines in alleged air freight cartel, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 10 February 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  21. ^ a b c d Court orders airlines to pay a total of $16 million in penalties for price fixing, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 16 February 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  22. ^ a b c d Federal Court fines Air France, KLM, Martinari and Cargolux $16 million for price-fixing cartel, The Australian, 16 February 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  23. ^ a b c ACCC institutes proceedings against more airlines in alleged air freight cartel, 10 February 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  24. ^ ACCC institutes proceedings against Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd for alleged price-fixing of air freight, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 30 April 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  25. ^ ACCC takes legal action against Cathay Pacific, Aircargo Asia Pacific, 30 April 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  26. ^ ACCC takes action against Emirates for alleged air freight price fixing, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 18 August 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  27. ^ Emirates accused of freight price-fixing, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 August 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  28. ^ ACCC institutes proceedings against PT Garuda Indonesia Ltd for alleged price fixing of air freight, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 2 September 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  29. ^ ACCC targets Garuda, Aviation Business, 3 September 2009 (accessed 18 May 2011)
  30. ^ ACCC institutes proceedings against Thai Airways for alleged price fixing of air freight, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 28 October 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  31. ^ Thai Airways falls foul of ACCC, Eye For Transport, 29 October 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  32. ^ ACCC institutes proceedings against Korean Air Lines Co. Ltd, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 5 March 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  33. ^ Australia targets Korean, Air cargo Net, 12th March 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  34. ^ ACCC institutes proceedings against Malaysian airline companies for alleged price fixing of air freight, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 13 April 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  35. ^ MAS latest target for price-fixing charges, Air Cargo, 20 April 2010 ]. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  36. ^ Malaysia Airlines in court on "cartel" allegations, Air Cargo World, 13 April 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  37. ^ ACCC institutes proceedings against Japan Airlines International Co., Ltd. for alleged price fixing of air freight, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 17 May 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  38. ^ a b Price fixing charge for Air NZ and JAL, ACCC says, Herald Sun, 17 May 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  39. ^ Japan Airlines penalised $5.5 million for price fixing, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 11 April 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  40. ^ ACCC institutes proceedings against Air New Zealand Ltd for alleged price fixing of air freight, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 17 May 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  41. ^ Air New Zealand caught fixing prices by ACCC, Business Dynamics, 17 May 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011
  42. ^ Highest ever penalty for resale price maintenance against skincare, cosmetics company Jurlique: $3.4 million

External links[edit]