In April 2014, the Commission adopted a settlement decision concerning the participation in the same cartel of Ervin, Winoa, Metalltechnik Schmidt and Eisenwerk Würth. Pometon chose not to settle and consequently the investigation continued under the normal cartel procedure. In December 2014, the Commission sent Pometon a statement of objections, giving it the opportunity to exercise its rights of defence.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in charge of competition policy said: "The steel abrasives cartel adversely affected a wide range of European manufacturing industries to the ultimate detriment of consumers. Today's decision once again shows the Commission's determination to sanction cartels and impose fines on all participants."
The Commission has found that for almost 4 years, Pometon participated in a cartel and had contacts on a bilateral and multilateral basis to coordinate prices of steel abrasives in the whole European Economic Area (EEA).
The cartel concerned steel abrasives, which are loose steel particles used for cleaning or enhancing metal surfaces in the steel, automotive, metallurgy and petrochemical industries. They are also used for cutting hard stones such as granite and marble.
Metal scrap, which is the main raw material for steel abrasives, is characterised by sharp price fluctuations as well as significant price differences between the EEA countries. To compensate for such fluctuations, the cartel participants set up together a specific surcharge (called the "scrap surcharge" or "scrap cost variance (SCV)") based on a common formula. In addition, the cartelists agreed not to compete against each other on price with respect to individual customers.
The fine was set on the basis of the Commission's 2006 Guidelines on fines (see IP/06/857and MEMO/06/256). As in the settlement decision concerning the same cartel, the Commission took into account, in particular, the company's sales of the products concerned in the EEA, the serious nature of the infringement, its geographic scope and its duration, the appropriate level of deterrence.
The fine imposed on Pometon is € 6 197 000.
The Commission's investigation started with unannounced inspections in June 2010.
More information on this case will be available under the case number 39792 in the public case register on the Commission's competition website. Once confidentiality issues have been dealt with, this decision of 25 May 2016 will also be published there.
For more information on the Commission’s action against cartels, see its cartels website.
Action 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 and seek damages. The case law of the Court 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 being reduced on account of the Commission fine.
The Antitrust Damages Directive, which the Member States have to implement in their legal systems by 27 December 2016, makes it easier for victims of anti-competitive practices to obtain damages. More information on antitrust damages actions, including a practical guide on how to quantify antitrust harm, is available here.