Five companies have been fined a total of $682 million by the European Commission (EU) on Wednesday for participating in a cartel to fix prices and share customers for Butadiene Rubber (BR) and Emulsion Styrene Butadiene Rubber (ESBR).
Eni, Bayer, Shell, Dow Chemical, Unipetrol and Trade-Stomil were in violation of Article 81, the EC Treaty’s ban on restrictive business practices, for operating a cartel from at least 1996 to 2002.
The overall fine is the second highest by the Commission in a cartel case and the fines for Eni, Shell and Bayer were increased because these companies had been found guilty of taking part in cartels previously.
However, for being the first to tell the Commission about the cartel, Bayer does not have to pay its fine of $268 million.
Eni must pay $357.6 million, Shell was fined $211 million, Dow Chemical was fined $84.8 million (which was reduced by 40 percent for information the company provided to back Bayer’s claims), Unipetrol had to pay $23 million and Trade-Stomil was fined $5 million.
“Cartels strike at the heart of healthy economic activity. They undermine competition, raise prices for consumers and reduce the diversity, quality and innovation of European companies. The Commission has imposed high fines in this case, but if companies continue to indulge in cartel activities, then they can expect their fines to be even higher in the future,” said Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.
Butadiene Rubber and Emulsion Styrene Butadiene Rubber are primarily used to produce tires, but are also used to make shoe soles, floor coverings and golf balls. The main BR and ESBR customers are tire producers like Michelin, Pirelli and Goodyear.