The European Commission has adopted a cartel settlement decision and fined five European producers of envelopes. The fines amounted to a total of almost € 20 million.
The decision finds that the companies Bong, GPV, Hamelin, Mayer-Kuvert and Tompla have infringed EU competition law between 2003 and 2008.
During those years, they allocated customers and co-ordinated on prices in France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
They also coordinated their responses to tenders launched by major European customers.
This cartel was orchestrated by top managers and the companies went to some length to conceal the illegal nature of their meetings. Occasionally, they referred to them as “golf” or “minigolf” meetings.
I would like to add just a few remarks which, I think, are important not only for this case but for the future of anti-cartel enforcement.
This is the first cartel decision adopted by the Juncker Commission since we took office more than a month ago but it’s the 10th of 2014, and there are more in the pipeline looking ahead.
Looking at this record, it should be clear that no industry, markets or company is immune from our scrutiny. Given the harm cartels can do to Europe’s consumers and economy, our fight against them remains a priority.
Secondly, as I said, today’s decision is a settlement – it is the 17th since the instrument was first used in 2010.
Settlements are now a very well-established tool – alongside of course with normal procedures. It will certainly help us to be more efficient and bust more cartels, hopefully many more cartels, in the future.
Thanks to settlements, we can look into more cases, and that of course moves the deterrent effect of our action up a notch or two.
Finally, today’s case we launched at our own initiative following the tip-off from a whistle-blower. The point to take away from this is that we have and we find means to go after cartels, even if none of the cartelists are coming clean – as it is very often the case.
So, that's the message to companies who may be sitting right now with their spreadsheets and considering becoming cartelists. I do hope that you realise that just a simple tip-off from a whistle-blower, from within the company or from a customer is all it takes for your cartel to come up on our enforcement radar. And therefore I do hope that every European company will find that it's worthwhile to engage in what they are here for: To be strong and successful and to grow and to create jobs in a fair and competitive way. Because I think that the record shows that we are still getting better at catching the cartelists.