On 12 December the European Commission imposed a total fine of 166 million euros against 3 rechargeable battery producers for infringing competition law in the distribution of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the most common type of batteries used in mobile phones, tablets and laptops.

The anti-competitive price-fixing agreement dates back to February 2004. For almost 4 years, the 3 Japanese companies agreed on temporary price increase between 2004 and 2007 over cobalt, a material used in the production of lithium-ion batteries, as a pretext to collude and fix prices for the batteries.

The investigation found that during this period, those battery producers were involved in discussions which mainly took place in Asia and Europe, and exchanged sensitive information such as competitive bids intentions, price forecast as well as supply and demand forecasts in order to avoid aggressive competition.

The European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, said that “millions of Europeans” were affected by the cartel, as they use laptops, mobile phones and other goods that run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

One of the companies involved in the cartel was not fined as the company disclosed the existence of the unfair business practices to the EU authorities and sought immunity from fines under the EU leniency procedures. All the parties subsequently admitted their involvement and therefore benefited from reduced financial penalties thanks to their collaboration.

If a person or business has suffered damages on account of a cartel, this person can raise a claim before the national court to seek remedy. The new EU rules on competition law litigation (which must be transposed into Member State national law by December 2016) will make it easier for consumers and businesses to pursue their claims. A considerable number of follow actions are expected particularly in the English Courts following the publication of this Decision.

Further information on the Commission’s Decision can be found by following the link below: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-4356_en.htm