The Federal Court has today dismissed the ACCC’s case against PZ Cussons Australia Pty Ltd (Cussons), which had alleged that Cussons engaged in cartel conduct by arriving at 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 Court also dismissed the ACCC’s allegation that Cussons had arrived at an understanding with the other laundry detergent manufacturers, which substantially lessened competition in the market for the supply of laundry detergent.
“The ACCC took this action because we were concerned that the conduct reduced choice of an essential household product, which could have affected many Australian consumers,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“Proving the existence of an understanding can be a complex task, which is why the Parliament recently added a new concerted practices prohibition to our competition law. The ACCC will carefully consider the judgment.”
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 entering into understandings, 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 i. 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.
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