Monday 23 October 2017

Polish court upholds €26m ruling against CRH unit for price-fixing

John Mulligan

John Mulligan

CRH has remained silent after a Polish competition court upheld a 2009 ruling that saw a subsidiary of Irish aggregates giant CRH being slapped with a €26m fine for being involved in price-fixing.

CRH's Grupa Ozarow was one of six firms fined a total of €100m -- the largest ever such fine levied in Poland -- for being involved in fixing prices and determining market shares.

CRH rival Lafarge escaped being fined even though it was involved in the cartel, because it agreed to cooperate with the Polish antitrust regulator under its leniency programme. The probe began in 2006 with raids on the cement maker's offices.

A spokesman for CRH declined to comment yesterday.

The following year, Grupa Ozarow was fined €530,000 for interfering with evidence that was being gathered as part of the official investigation. One of the company's workers had attempted to tamper with evidence during a raid on its offices in 2006.

The Polish Office for Competition and Consumer Protection (OCCP) found that the cartel it broke controlled nearly 100pc of the country's cement production and sales.

"Their unlawful and long-lasting conduct resulted in the distortion of competition," it said.

Five of the cement producers were fined the maximum possible of 10pc of their annual revenue. When it received its fine four years ago, CRH said that the findings of the OCCP were a "matter of serious concern".

"CRH always understood that Grupa Ozarow conducted an independent commercial policy in the Polish cement industry," it said. "This has been verified by analysis undertaken, at the request of CRH, by leading Polish economic experts."

It appealed the watchdog's finding but Poland's Court of Competition and Consumer Protection has upheld the ruling.

However, it reduced the fine imposed on the CRH subsidiary from almost €26m to around €21m.

CRH will already have made a provision for the fine in its accounts.

A written judgment of the ruling from the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection won't be available until early next year.

The CRH unit and the other companies found to have acted illegally can appeal the latest judgment.

Irish Independent

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