Brussels, 13 December 2012
Antitrust: Commission welcomes General Court judgments on appeals in calcium carbide cartel
The European Commission welcomes today's judgments by the EU General Court (GC) upholding the fines imposed in 2009 on Novácke chemické závody (NCHZ) (T-352/09), Ecka Granulate (T-400/09) and Almamet (T-410/09) for participating in a cartel in the sector of calcium carbide and magnesium based reagents (see IP/09/1169). This judgment is important, because it confirms the validity of the Commission's approach for the finding of an infringement and the setting of the fines of these companies.
In 2009, the Commission fined several producers of calcium carbide and/or magnesium based reagents a total of €61 million for having participated in a price fixing and market sharing cartel between 2004 and 2007 (see IP/09/1169).
In today's judgments, the GC confirmed both the fines imposed by the Commission for this serious infringement of EU antitrust rules, and the Commission's assessment of the claims that these companies were unable to pay the fines (ITP claims).
The GC also confirmed that the investment company 1.garantovaná was jointly liable with NCHZ for the payment of the fine (case T-392/09).
These judgments confirm the Commission's reasoning for rejecting the ITP claims and the validity of the fines imposed.
The Commission's decision of July 2009 addressed 9 companies for having colluded, directly or as liable parent company, on prices and customers for the sales of calcium carbide powder, calcium carbide granulates and magnesium granulates in a substantial part of the European Economic Area (EEA). Calcium carbide powder and magnesium granulates are used for desulphurisation or desoxidation purposes in the steel industry; calcium carbide granulates are used for the production of acetylene, a welding gas.
Paragraph 35 of the Commission's guidelines on fines foresees the possibility for a company to apply for a reduction of a cartel fine, when payment of the full fine would irretrievably jeopardise a company's economic viability and cause its assets to lose all their value. In the investigation under review, the Commission did not reduce the fines pursuant to Paragraph 35 of the guidelines on fines.