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EU fines battery recyclers for forming cartel

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The European Commission (EC) has fined three car battery recycling companies a total of €68 ($72.7 million) for participating in a price-fixing cartel, the EC said in a statement issued Feb. 8.

The three were found to have fixed prices for purchasing scrap automotive batteries in a breach of European Union (EU) antitrust rules.

Fined were United Kingdom-based Eco-Bat Technologies, Belgium-based Campine SA and France-based Recyclex SA. Specifically, Eco-Bat was fined €32.7 ($34.98 million), while Recylex and Campine were charged €26.7 ($28.57 million) and €8.2 ($8.77 million) respectively, according to the EC release.

A fourth company, Milwaukee, Wis..-based Johnson Controls Co., was not fined because it alerted the EC about the cartel.

According to the EC, the three companies fixed the purchase prices of scrap lead-acid automotive batteries in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands between 2009 and 2012.

By working together to reduce the purchase price paid to scrap dealers and collectors for used-car batteries, the companies disturbed the normal functioning of the market and interfered with price competition, the EC said.

“This behavior was intended to lower the value of used batteries sold for scrap, to the detriment of used battery sellers. The companies affected by the cartel were mainly small and medium-sized battery collectors and scrap dealers,” the ruling noted.

The bulk of the anti-competitive contacts between the four companies were said to have taken place on a bilateral basis, typically
through telephone calls, emails or text messages. In-person meetings also took place.

The EC said that the companies were aware that their actions were illegal and would occasionally attempt to disguise their contacts by using coded language, such as referring to weather conditions to notify different price levels.

All three companies responded to the EC action in separate statements.

Recyclex said in a Feb. 8 statement that it was disappointed that the EC did not take into account the company’s specific financial situation and that it would examine the decision with its counsel and study the financial impacts. The company said that all options, including an appeal, would be considered.

Campine is in “complete disagreement” with the EC’s decision and plans to immediately appeal in the General Court of Luxembourg, the company said Feb. 8.

In a same-day statement, Eco-Bat said that it was still reviewing the decision and had not yet determined if it would appeal.

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