On 8 February 2017, the Commission adopted a cartel matter decision in the car battery recycling sector.
Between 2009 and 2012, four recycling companies took part in a cartel that involved fixing the purchase prices for recycling scrap batteries. Campine (Belgium), Eco-Bat Technologies (UK), Johnson Controls (US) and Recyclex (France) coordinated to lower the prices they paid to scrap dealers and scrap collectors for used car batteries.
The Commission’s investigation started to follow the immunity application by Johnson Controls in 2012. Leniency application allows a cartel participant to benefit from complete immunity from fines if it is the first to denounce the cartel – whereas other participants could obtain a reduction in the fines imposed – and allows the Commission to obtain internal valuable information that may justify and facilitate investigations.
The Commission condemned such behaviour on the basis of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. In particular, the anti-competitive contacts occurred via phone calls, emails, text messages and in person.
Johnson Controls received full immunity, thereby avoiding a fine of EUR 38.5 million, thanks to its leniency application. The three remaining companies were fined EUR 68 million.
Price cartels are the most common and more often condemned, but illegal cartels may take other forms, including market sharing or cartels involving raw materials or sources of supply, as in the case in question. This matter confirms that the Commission must ensure fair competition by condemning other types of cartel. There may be an appeal against this cartel decision before the General Court. There is relevant statistical evidence that fines were often reduced by the General Court, which has sufficient room for manoeuvre in this respect.