The ACCC has commenced proceedings in the Melbourne Federal Court against global manufacturers of marine hoses for alleged cartel conduct. The ACCC alleges that Bridgestone Corporation (Japan), and three other companies, conspired to fix prices and not compete when oil producers. They sought quotes for equipment needed to transfer oil and gas products from production facilities to tankers and storage tanks.
Federal Court documents outline a series of meetings which date from 1999 to 2007, where manufacturers allegedly agreed to co-ordinate prices and engage in bid rigging. Woodside Petroleum, BHP Billiton, Conoco Phillips and Exxon Mobil are among the companies believed to be affected by the conduct.
These proceedings coincide with new cartel legislation that makes serious cartel conduct a criminal offence in Australia. Individuals may be jailed for up to 10 years under the new law, and companies will face substantial monetary penalties. The Bill becomes law on 24 July 2009. Last year, two Dunlop Oil & Marine executives and one consultant were jailed in Britain for their involvement in the marine hose cartel.
The marine hose cartel has resulted in investigations against the cartel participants in several jurisdictions. Recently, Korea's Fair Trade Commission imposed fines on five companies for involvement in the cartel which affected Korean markets between 1999 and 2006. Yokohama took advantage of the Fair Trade Commission’s leniency program, thus avoiding a fine. Other competition authorities, including the European Commission, United States Department of Justice and United Kingdom Office of Fair Trade, have previously taken action against the cartel and numerous executives for their role in the conduct.
The Australian directions hearing is set for 7 July 2009 in the Federal Court in Melbourne, with Justice Finkelstein presiding over the hearing.