ACCC all gassed up and ready to go!
Rod Sims has stuck to his guns when he said that cartels are one of the ACCC’s 2012 enforcement priorities. Just yesterday, the ACCC instituted civil proceedings in the Federal Court against two gas supply companies for cartel conduct in contravention of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
Renegade Gas Pty Ltd and Speed-E-Gas, through their senior executives and sales staff, are alleged to have given effect to anti-competitive cartel arrangements by not supplying liquid petroleum gas cylinders for forklifts to each other’s customers.
These types of arrangements are prohibited outright under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 irrespective of their likely effect on competition. The ACCC is alleging that by agreeing to not supply gas one another’s customers, Renegade and Speed-E-Gas ensured they were not competing for the same business. Not only is it alleged that this effectively eliminates competition between Renegade and Speed-E-Gas, BUT if customers aren’t able shop around for a cheaper price, allowed them to charge higher prices than they would if they had to compete for the same business.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties and orders for legal costs against Renegade, Speed-E-Gas AND their senior executives allegedly involved in the implementation of the arrangements. The senior executives may be at the risk of being banned from running companies in the future.
Moral of the story: The ACCC continues to prioritise busting up cartels. Interestingly, the case is civil and not criminal in nature.