European Union regulators fined seven chemical producers including Solvay SA, Akzo Nobel NV and a unit of Total SA 388 million euros ($490 million) for fixing the prices of hydrogen peroxide and related products.
``Cartels are unacceptable corporate behavior that deprive customers of the benefits of the single market,'' Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement today. ``These high fines take into account that certain companies are repeat offenders.''
The fines follow a 3 1/2 year investigation against 18 companies for colluding in the markets for hydrogen peroxide and sodium perborates, used by companies such as Unilever Plc to make products including antiseptics and hair-care products. Solvay and Akzo Nobel in March paid a combined $72.8 million to settle U.S. Justice Department allegations of a similar cartel in the U.S.
Belgian chemical marker Solvay received the highest fine of 167 million euros, followed by Total's Arkema unit with 79 million euros and Solvay Solexis with 58 million euros.
Regulators also fined Akzo Nobel 25 million euros, FMC Corp., a U.S. chemical maker, 25 million euros and Kemira Oyj, Finland's largest chemical maker, 33 million euros.
Dusseldorf, Germany-based Degussa AG, the world's biggest specialty chemicals maker, wasn't fined because the company tipped off regulators.
In 1984, the commission fined four companies, including Degussa and Solvay, 9 million euros for sharing the market for hydrogen peroxide and its derivatives sodium perborate and persulphates between 1961 and 1980.