The Federal Court has by consent ordered penalties totalling $8.3 million against Renegade Gas Pty Ltd (trading as Supagas NSW) (Renegade Gas), Speed-E-Gas (NSW) Pty Ltd (Speed-E-Gas), and three current and former senior officers of those companies for engaging in cartel conduct over a five year period.
The Court found that from at least 2006 until 2011, Renegade Gas and Speed-E-Gas, through their senior officers and sales staff, gave effect to a no-poaching understanding between the two companies, which included the companies:
- not approaching certain customers of the other;
- not offering to supply LPG cylinders for forklifts to certain customers of the other, or offering to supply only at prices that they knew were unlikely to induce the customer to change suppliers; and
- communicating with each other for the purposes of implementing the understanding, largely via voicemail and text message.
Justice Gordon ordered Renegade Gas to pay a penalty of $4.8 million, and Speed-E-Gas a lower penalty of $3.1 million (reflecting its cooperation with the ACCC’s investigation from a very early stage).
Justice Gordon also ordered penalties for three individuals for being involved in the conduct:
- the former Managing Director of Renegade Gas, Paul Berman, was disqualified for three years from managing corporations and ordered to pay a pecuniary penalty of $250,000; and
- a senior officer of Renegade Gas was ordered to pay a penalty of $100,000; and
- a former senior officer of Speed-E-Gas was ordered to pay a penalty of $50,000.
The Court also ordered injunctions, compliance training for Renegade Gas and Mr Berman, and contributions to the ACCC’s costs totalling $600,000.
The ACCC executed search warrants on the premises of Renegade Gas and Speed-E-Gas on 21 June 2011, and instituted proceedings on 23 August 2012 after a comprehensive investigation.
Image credit: LEGO Fork Lift 425 (1976), Rob Young, Flikr