The ACCC has appealed from the Federal Court’s decision late last year to dismiss the ACCC’s proceedings against PZ Cussons Australia Pty Ltd (Cussons).
The ACCC took action against Cussons in 2013, alleging Cussons had engaged in cartel conduct by arriving at, and giving effect to, an understanding with two other laundry detergent manufacturers to cease supplying standard concentrate laundry detergents in early 2009, and supply only ultra concentrates from that time.
The ACCC also alleged Cussons had arrived at an understanding with other laundry detergent manufacturers, which had the effect of substantially lessening competition in the market for the supply of laundry detergent.
On 22 December 2017, the Court dismissed the ACCC’s allegations, finding there was insufficient evidence that Cussons had engaged in cartel behaviour or been party to an arrangement or understanding that substantially lessened competition.
The ACCC has appealed from the Court’s decision to dismiss the cartel allegations.
”We believe that there was sufficient evidence for the Court to find that Cussons had entered into an understanding,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“This appeal allows the Full Federal Court to consider whether the trial judge should have inferred an understanding involving Cussons based on the uncontested evidence in this case.”
In 2013, the ACCC instituted proceedings against Colgate, Cussons, Mr Paul Ansell (a former Colgate executive) and Woolworths Ltd for alleged contraventions of the Act. Woolworths and Mr Ansell were alleged to have been knowingly concerned in the arrangements reached between Colgate, Cussons and Unilever. The ACCC’s court action followed an immunity application by Unilever, which consented to being named as the immunity applicant.
In early 2016, Colgate and Mr Ansell admitted their involvement in the conduct, which limited the supply, and controlled the price, of laundry detergents, and another arrangement that the ACCC alleged involved only Colgate and Unilever that involved sharing market-sensitive information regarding laundry detergent price increases. Colgate was ordered to pay penalties totalling $18 million.
In 2016, Woolworths also admitted being knowingly concerned in the making of, and giving effect to, an understanding to cease supplying standard concentrate laundry detergents to Woolworths in early 2009 and supply only ultra concentrates to Woolworths from that time, and was ordered to pay $9 million in penalties.
The ACCC’s case was dismissed in December 2017. See: Court dismisses case against Cussons
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