The sooner the better
Five years after the DG Comp imposed a whopping €128 million (approximately AU$184 million) fine on petrochemical company Total, and following an appeal by Total, the EU General Court has reduced the original fine by a mere €3 million (approximately AU$4.3 million) to €125 million (approximately AU$180 million). The reduction is to acknowledge that Total ended its participation in the cartel a few months earlier than the other members of the cartel.
The original case involved 9 cartel members and fines totalling €676 million for fixing prices and collusion in the market for paraffin wax. Total’s case involved two separate cases; one involving the parent company Total SA, and the other, its French subsidiary Total Raffinage Marketing which produce two separate products, paraffin wax and slack wax.
Total’s grounds of appeal were that:
- as paraffin wax and slack wax are two different products, a single and continuous offence could not have occurred;
- the fine was miscalculated; and
- the price fixing was the result of informal conversations rather than a formal agreement.
The judge rejected all of Total’s arguments holding that even though paraffin wax and slack wax are separate products, they are in a vertical relationship as slack wax is used to make paraffin wax, so the infringements constitute one single and continuous infringement.
Other cartel members (Sasol, Exxon, Esso, Respol, ENI, RWE and the H&R/Tudapetrol group) have also appealed the decision on many of the same grounds.