The European Commission has imposed fines totalling €34,230,000 on the Bayer and Zeon groups for fixing prices for Nitrile Butadiene Rubber (NBR) in violation of the EC Treaty's and the EEA Agreement's ban on cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 81 of the EC Treaty and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement). NBR is used mainly in car manufacturing for fuel and oil handling hoses, seals, o-rings and water handling applications. Between late 2000 and 2002, Bayer and Zeon managed to raise or otherwise stabilise prices through a series of meetings and other illicit contacts. Bayer's and Zeon's fines are reduced by 30% and 20%, respectively, because they co-operated with the investigation under the Commission's 2002 Leniency Notice (see IP/02/247 and MEMO/02/23). However Bayer's fine was increased by 50% because it had been fined for cartel activity in a previous Commission decision.
From at least 2000 to 2002, the producers of NBR operated a cartel in which they fixed prices. The companies held regular meetings to discuss prices and to coordinate price increases, to exchange sensitive commercial information and to follow-up the implementation of their illegal plans.
These practices constitute very serious infringements of EC Treaty antitrust rules. In setting the fines, the Commission took into account the respective affected sales of the companies involved as well as the combined market share, the geographical scope and the implementation of the cartel agreements. The Commission increased the fines for Bayer by 50% because it had already been fined for cartel activities in a previous Commission decision. However, the decisions adopted in recent years concerning other infringements of competition rules perpetrated by Bayer in the synthetic rubber industry did not lead to a further increase of this fine as they took place in a similar period of time and therefore are parallel infringements. [23 January 2008]