The French Competition Authority (Autorité de la Concurrence) imposed on May 28, 2013 a total fine of more than €79 million on the members of a cartel formed by the major distributors of commodity chemicals (basic raw materials produced such as solvents, alcohols, acids, ethers, bleach, soda etc…) in France.

The enterprises involved (Brenntag, Caldic Est, Univar and Solvadis) represent more than 80% of the commodity chemicals market in France.

It was found that representatives of Solvadis, Brenntag, Univar and Caldic would meet secretly on a regular basis in hotels or restaurants or communicate on the phone, sometimes on dedicated lines in order to avoid these calls being traced to allocate customers and coordinate prices offered to their customers.

The Autorité de la Concurrence was informed of the existence of such cartel by Solvadis which applied for leniency and was granted immunity in view of its self-reporting. GEA Group, Solvadis’s parent company at the time the offence was committed, was not part of the leniency procedure and was fined (€9,405,279). Brenntag and Univar also filed a claim for leniency and had their penalties respectively reduced by 25% and 20% as second and third applicant. On the other hand, the Autorité de la Concurrence took into account the leading role Brenntag played in the cartel and fined it €47,802,789 jointly with DBML, its parent company at the time the offence was committed (Autorité de la Concurrence, Decision 13 D 12 dated May 28, 2013).

An appeal of the decision is currently pending before the Paris Court of Appeal.