The European Commission imposed fines totaling €243.2 million on six rubber manufacturers that engaged in a cartel to allocate customers and fix prices for chloroprene rubber. The companies – namely Bayer, Denka, DuPont, Dow, ENI and Tosoh – were charged with violating Article 81 of the EC Treaty, which bans cartels and restrictive business practices. The Commission found that, between 1993 and 2002, the companies agreed on market shares and set prices for chloroprene rubber. Chloroprene rubber is a synthetic flexible rubber used in a range of industrial products including hoses, v-belts, diving equipment and adhesive in shoes.
In assessing fines for violations of Article 81, the Commission considers, among other things, the seriousness of the offense, the amount of affected sales and, in the case of cartels, the “combined market share, the geographic scope, and the actual implementation of the cartel agreements.” The Commission also factors in reductions of fines for firms that cooperate with the Commission’s investigation through its Leniency Program. In this case, the fines assigned to ENI and Bayer were increased by 60 percent and 50 percent respectively because each company had previously been found by the Commission to have been involved in cartel activities. Bayer was nevertheless granted full immunity from fines because it was the first applicant under the Commission’s Leniency Program; ENI was fined €132 million without reduction. Tosoh and DuPont/Dow were granted fine reductions of 50 percent in the case of Tosoh and 25 percent in the case of DuPont/Dow. As a result, the companies were fined €4.8 million and €108 million, respectively. The Japan-based firm Denka was fined €47 million with no reduction.