2009/3/24              決定

欧州委員会、熱安定剤カルテルで法的措置開始

ECは3月23日、熱安定剤カルテル法的措置を開始した。対象各社に異議告知書を送付したもので、CibaとAkzoNobel が異議告知書の受領を認めた。

「異議告知書」とは、欧州独占禁止法違反の疑いに関する欧州委員会の暫定的な見解(未確定)を示し、当事者の意見を求めるもの。「異議告知書」は調査途中の文書であり、欧州委員会の最終決定ではない。

委員会は対象の製品をスズ安定剤 tin stabilisers とエポキシ化大豆油 epoxidised soybean oil (ESBO)/ esters としている。

Cibaは「2003年に始まった調査に関し」としており、MBSの国際カルテルの調査で出てきた別件かと思われる。

2008/1/29 MBS価格カルテル問題

2003年2月、欧州委員会の要請に基づき、米国司法省、カナダ競争局、日本の公正取引委員会はMBSの販売を巡る国際カルテルに関する同時調査に着手した。

9カ国の14社以上のメーカーに調査が入った。Akzo NobelRohm and Haas などのほか、日本では三菱レイヨン、呉羽化学(現 クレハ)、鐘淵化学(現 カネカ)に調査が入った。

日本では2003年12月公正取引委員会が三菱レイヨンと鐘淵化学に対し、排除勧告を行なった。(呉羽化学は事業譲渡)

両社はこれに応諾せず、公取委は2004年2月に審判開始の決定を行なったが、この審判はまだ続いている。
また、呉羽化学に対しては、公取委は2005年7月に
課徴金納付命令を出したが、同社は審判手続の開始を請求、この審判もまだ続いている。

米国では司法省は200643社とも容疑なしとして不起訴とした。しかし、米国のMBSの購入者から、価格維持等の米国独占禁止法に違反する行為により損害を被ったとの主張で、3社の子会社に対してそれぞれ損害賠償請求訴訟が提起され、3社とも和解した。

欧州委員会による調査も2007年1月に終了したと言われていた。

---

Cibaは1998年に添加剤事業をWitcoのエポキシ事業と交換しており、AkzoNobel は2001年に添加剤事業部 Akcros Chemicals PVC を英国の投資会[email protected] Investmentsに売却している。

Witco 1999年にCrompton & Knowles と合併し、Crompton となり、2005年にCrompton Great Lakes Chemical が合併しChemtura となった。Crompton & KnowlesUniroyalの事業を買収している。

Chemtura
Our additives cover the entire supply chain, from monomers and polymerization to finishing and compounding.
We are a world leader in PVC (polyvinyl chloride) heat stabilizers, we offer one of the most extensive ranges of additives for polyolefins and engineering polymers in the world, and we are a leading producer of ABS-based impact modifiers.

BASF says not involved in EU antitrust investigation on heat stabilisers.

--

MEMO/09/125
Brussels, 23rd March 2009
Antitrust: Commission confirms sending Statement of Objections to alleged participants in heat stabilisers cartel

The European Commission can confirm that it has recently sent (in March 2009) a Statement of Objections to a number of companies active in the heat stabilisers sector, concerning their alleged participation in a cartel in violation of EU rules on restrictive business practices (Article 81 of the EC Treaty and Article 53 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area).
Heat stabilisers - in solid or liquid form - are added to PVC products in order to improve their thermal resistance, plasticity, rigidity, transparency and protect them from discolouring.
The Statement of Objections concerns two categories of heat stabilisers: tin stabilisers, and epoxidised soybean oil (
ESBO)/ esters. They are used in packaging, food packaging, credit cards, bottles, coatings, flooring, artificial leather, plastic wallpaper, and other plastic products for everyday use.

Procedural background
A Statement of Objections is a formal step in Commission antitrust investigations in which the Commission informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them. The addressee of a Statement of Objections can reply in writing to the Statement of Objections, setting out all facts known to it which are relevant to its defence against the objections raised by the Commission. The party may also request an oral hearing to present its comments on the case.
The Commission may then take a decision on whether the conduct addressed in the Statement of Objections is compatible or not with the EC Treaty's antitrust rules.
Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the procedure.


IP/09/1695 Brussels, 11 November 2009      調査開始

Antitrust: Commission fines plastic additives producers Euro173 million for price fixing and market sharing cartels

The European Commission has imposed a total of Euro 173 864 000 fines on 24 companies from 10 different undertakings - Akzo, Baerlocher, Ciba, Elementis, Elf Aquitaine (Arkema France), GEA, Chemson, Faci, Reagens and AC Treuhand - for violating the EC Treatys ban on cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 81). Chemtura Corporation participated but was not fined because it revealed the existence of the cartels to the Commission. On the one hand, fines on Arkema France, Baerlocher and Ciba were reduced for cooperating with the Commission investigation. On the other hand, Arkema France's fine was increased by 90% as it had previously taken part in similar cartels. Between 1987 and 2000 the companies fixed prices, shared customers, allocated markets and exchanged sensitive commercial information for tin stabilisers (1987-2000) and ESBO/esters (1991-2000) heat stabilisers in the European Economic Area (EEA). Heat stabilisers are added to PVC products in order to improve their thermal resistance. They also increase the plasticity, rigidity and transparency of final PVC products and protect them from discolouration.

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".

The Commission's investigation began with unannounced inspections in February 2003, prompted by an immunity application lodged by Chemtura Corporation under the 2002 Leniency Notice (see IP/02/247 and MEMO/02/23 ).

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 Euro 121 million 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.

The cartels

Between 1987 and 2000, Akzo, Baerlocher, Ciba, Elementis, Elf Aquitaine, Chemtura, Reagens and AC Treuhand (for various periods) participated in an EEA-wide tin stabiliser cartel. Between 1991 and 2000, Akzo, Ciba, Elementis, Elf Aquitaine, GEA, Chemson Chemtura, Faci and AC Treuhand (for various periods) operated an EEA-wide ESBO/ester cartel. For both products, the companies fixed prices, shared customers, allocated markets and exchanged commercially sensitive information.

The principal decisions for both cartels were taken at meetings organised by AC Treuhand, which provided its Zurich premises and services to the companies involved. The meetings took place every month for tin stabilisers and quarterly for ESBO/esters. In addition, details on prices, customer allocation and markets were negotiated and implemented in country meetings held throughout Europe. The participants thereby coordinated their behaviour throughout the EEA.

Fines

In setting the fines, the Commission took into account the respective affected sales of the companies involved, the very serious nature of the infringement and the fact that the cartel covered the whole EEA. The Commission increased the fines for Arkema France (part of the Elf Aquitaine group at the time of the infringement) by 90% because it had already been fined by the Commission for previous cartels - PVC (27.7.94 - see IP/94/732 ) , polypropylene (23.4.86) and peroxygen products (23.11.84).

With regard to the tin stabiliser cartel, the Commission also took into account the cooperation of Arkema France, Baerlocher and Ciba and reduced their fines by 30%, 20% and 15% respectively. As regards the ESBO/ester cartel, the Commission also took into account the cooperation of Arkema France and Ciba and reduced their fines by 50% and 25% respectively. Akzo requested leniency but did not meet the requirements for cooperation and so received no reduction in fine.

The fines in this case are based on the 2006 Fines Guidelines (see IP/06/857 and MEMO/06/256 ), in force at the time the Statement of Objections was notified.

The fines imposed for the tin stabiliser cartel are as follows:

  Reduction under
the Leniency Notice
(%)
Reduction under
the Leniency Notice
(Euro)
Fine*
(Euro)
Akzo (NL)      21 800 000
Elementis (UK/US)      16 834 000
Elf Aquitaine (Arkema France) (FR)     30    4 368 000  10 046 400
Baerlocher (DE)     20    5 479 600   1 000 000
Chemtura(US)     100    15 900 000       0
Ciba (CH)     15    10 950 000  61 320 000
Reagens(IT)      10 791 000
AC Treuhand (CH)        174 000
合計     121 965 400

(*) Legal entities within the undertaking may be held jointly and severally liable for the payment of the fine

The fines imposed for the ESBO/ester cartel are as follows:

  Reduction under
the Leniency Notice
(%)
Reduction under
the Leniency Notice
(Euro)
Fine*
(Euro)
Akzo (NL)      18 800 000
Elementis (UK/US)      15 741 000
Elf Aquitaine (Arkema France) (FR)     50   18 980 000  18 600 400
Chemson (AUS)
(GEA, ACW (DE))
      3 801 600
Chemtura(US)     100    4 700 000       0
Ciba (CH)     25    2 400 000   7 104 000
Faci (IT)       5 940 000
AC Treuhand (CH)        174 000
合計      70 161 000
       
2件合計     192 126 400

 

  tin stabiliser ESBO/ester 合計
Fine (Euro)
増減 Fine (Euro) 増減 Fine (Euro)
Akzo (NL)    21 800 000    18 800 000  40 600 000
Elementis (UK/US)    16 834 000    15 741 000  32 575 000
Elf Aquitaine (Arkema France) (FR) +90% -30%  10 046 400 +90% -50%  18 600 400  28 646 800
Baerlocher (DE)  -20%   1 000 000       1 000 000
Chemson (AUS)
(GEA, ACW (DE))
        3 801 600   3 801 600
Chemtura(US)  -100%       0 -100%       0        0
Ciba (CH) -15%  61 320 000 -25%   7 104 000  68 424 000
Faci (IT)         5 940 000   5 940 000
Reagens(IT)    10 791 000      10 791 000
AC Treuhand (CH)      174 000      174 000    348 000
合計   121 965 400    70 161 000  192 126 400

  発表では合計Euro 173 864 000 となっており、合わない。
  
No-one was available to explain why the total of the individual fines exceeds the amount quoted by the Commission as the total fine

(*) Legal entities within the undertaking may be held jointly and severally liable for the payment of the fine

Swiss consultancy AC Treuhand was also fined euro348,000 for aiding the cartel and hosting monthly meetings at its Zurich offices
CH:
スイスのラテン語 Confoederatio Helvetica の頭文字 

Actions for damages

Any person or firm affected by anti-competitive behaviour as described in this case may bring the matter before the courts of the Member States of the EEA and seek damages. The case law of the European Courts and Council Regulation 1/2003 both confirm that in cases before national courts, a Commission decision is binding proof that the behaviour took place and was illegal. Even though the Commission has fined the companies concerned, damages may be awarded without these being reduced on account of the Commission fine. A White Paper on antitrust damages actions has been published (see IP/08/515 and MEMO/08/216 ). More information, including a citizens' summary of the White Paper, is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/comm/competition/antitrust/actionsdamages/documents.html

For more information on the Commissions action against cartels, see MEMO/09/496 .

BASF, the German company that owns Ciba, said it would appeal the fine, citing a statute of limitations. It said Ciba had sold the firm that engaged in the price-fixing 10 years ago.

Elementis also said it would appeal the fine, while AkzoNobel, owner of Akzo, said it was reviewing the decision and pointed out that it had two months to lodge a court appeal.