The European Union's competition regulator on Monday canceled cartel fines against BASF AG and Elementis PLC because the statute of limitations had expired for the two chemicals companies.
The European Commission in November 2009 fined Ciba, now a subsidiary of Germany's BASF, and U.K.-based Elementis PLC €68.4 million and €32.6 million for participating in a cartel in the market for heat stabilizers between 1987 and 2000.
However, a ruling by the European Court of Justice on a separate case earlier this year clarified EU law on the period of limitations in cartel cases — throwing into doubt other Commission decisions.
"As a result of that clarification, it was clear that the Commission decision of 2009 was incorrect in that the limitation period on these two companies had expired," the Commission said in a statement Monday.
The fines for the other nine companies involved in the cartel — amounting to some €72.9 million — remain in place, the Commission said.
In the original decision, the companies were found to have fixed prices, shared customers, carved up markets and swapped commercial information for tin stabilizers and ESBO/esters heat stabilizers, two additives used in packaging, credit cards, bottles and other plastic products.
The market for the stabilizers was worth about €121 million a year while the cartel was active.