Brussels, 18th December 2008
On 21 December 2005, the Commission fined four undertakings for operating a cartel in the rubber chemicals market (Flexsys NV, Bayer AG and Crompton, later Chemtura, including Crompton Europe and Uniroyal Chemical Company, and General Quimica). The total fine was €75.86 million (see IP/05/1656).
The contested decision found that at least from 1996 to 2001 Flexsys NV, Bayer AG and Crompton agreed to exchange information about prices and/or raise the prices of certain rubber chemicals (antioxidants, antiozonants and primary accelerators) in the EEA. General Quimica S.A. participated in this agreement from 1999 to 2000.
Court of First Instance judgment
General Química S.A. Repsol Química S.A. and Repsol YPF S.A. brought an action against the Commission decision on 8 March 2006. In support of their application, the companies submitted that the Commission incorrectly held Repsol YPF S.A. and Repsol Química S.A. jointly liable with their subsidiary General Química S.A. and, alternatively, that the Commission incorrectly assessed and failed to state reasons for the declaration of joint and several liability in respect of Repsol YPF S.A. The Applicants claimed that General Química S.A. operated as an autonomous economic entity in the market, and that its parents companies were not liable for the infringement. In addition, it was argued that the applicants had a marginal role in the infringement, that an increase of the fine due to the overall size of the Repsol group was not warranted and that the Commission incorrectly applied its 1996 Leniency Notice.
The Court of First Instance rejected the claims by the applicants, upheld the Commission's finding of an infringement and confirmed the fine against the applicants. The CFI particularly held that the Commission correctly established that Repsol YPF S.A. and Repsol Química S.A. although they did not participate themselves in the arrangements in question, are jointly liable for the conduct of their wholly owned subsidiary General Quimica S.A. The CFI also found that the Commission had correctly applied the notice on immunity from fines and reduction of fines in cartel cases.
Rubber chemicals are synthetic or organic chemicals that improve the production and the characteristics of rubber products, used in a wide range of application, the most important of which is tyres for cars and other vehicles.
The investigation into the rubber chemicals sector began following an application for conditional immunity from fines by Flexsys NV in April 2002. Subsequently, the Commission carried out inspections at the premises of Bayer AG, Crompton Europe and General Quimica S.A. in September 2002. Crompton (later Chemtura), Bayer AG and General Quimica S.A. applied for leniency, on 8 October 2002, 24 October 2002 and 7 June 2004, respectively. The cooperation provided useful information for the exposure of the infringement and was rewarded in accordance with the Commission’s leniency notice (see IP/02/247 and MEMO/02/23). Flexsys NV was granted full immunity, and the other companies had their fines reduced in return for the information they provided.
The Commission found that the cartel was a very serious violation of Article 81(1) of the EC Treaty and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement. It imposed the following fines:
- Bayer AG €58.88 million
- Crompton Europe Ltd, Crompton Manufacturing €13.60 million
Company, Inc. (former Uniroyal Chemical Company, Inc.),
Chemtura Corporation (former Crompton Corporation)
- General Quimica SA, Repsol Quimica SA, Repsol YPF SA€3.38 million
- Flexsys NV € 0.0 million