There have been a couple of big proceedings commenced by the ACCC recently in the Federal Court with cartel conduct under the spotlight, serving as a stark reminder that the ACCC takes cartel conduct extremely seriously.
We have found that many people are still unaware that interactions with competitors can cause a very high risk of falling foul of anti-competitive conduct restrictions. Cartel conduct is an umbrella term to describe forms of anti-competitive conduct, such as price fixing, sharing markets, rigging bids, and otherwise controlling the output or limiting the amount of goods and services available to buyers. Cartels, and participation in a cartel, are illegal both under the civil laws and criminal laws, with the penalties including fines and jail time.
The latest blitz by the ACCC has seen 2 egg producers, and a ball bearings supplier come under fire.
The ACCC instituted proceedings in the Federal Court alleging that Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL) and two egg producers attempted to induce other egg producers to come to an arrangement where hens and eggs would be disposed of to reduce the supply of eggs in the marketplace.
The ACCC Chairman Rod Sims commented on this case saying that, “Industry associations need to be conscious of competition compliance issues when they bring competing firms together. Today’s action sends a clear message that attempts by industry associations to coordinate anti-competitive behaviour by competitors will not be tolerated.”
The ACCC sought declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties and maintenance of a compliance program by the parties involved.
This decision comes on the back of another recent case in the Federal Court recently where a $3million penalty was handed down against NSK Australia Pty Ltd, for price fixing conduct in relation to ball bearings. The court found that employees of NSK had met at Japanese restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne with employees of other organisations in the same industry to discuss confidential pricing plans, and that these meetings had led to price fixing behaviour.
In short, if you are engaged in any way in conduct that involves discussions with competitors about pricing structures, or actions to reduce supply, take note. The ACCC is watching.
Contact us on 02 8006 0830 or [email protected] for a confidential consultation if you’re concerned about anything that has happened in the conduct of your business, or if you’ve been approached by suppliers or competitors with anything that concerns you.
If you are interested in learning more about competition law and the Australian Consumer Law, we cover this topic in our contracts law seminar series. For more details just send an email to [email protected] or click here for the brochure.
Disclaimer: The material contained on this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should not depend upon any information appearing on this website without seeking legal advice. We do not guarantee that the contents of this website will be accurate, complete or up-to-date.