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TransPacific unit settles in price-fixing case

Friday 5th November 2010

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ERS New Zealand, New Zealand’s largest provider of waste oil services and a unit of TransPacific Industries, has paid a “significant sum” in a settlement to head off a price-fixing prosecution.

The Commerce Commission agreed to withdraw High Court proceedings lodged in 2009 after a whistleblower gave the regulator a secret recording of a meeting where one of ERS’ directors discussed future price rises with a rival. The commission pursued the case after a whistleblower provided a secret recording of the conversation.

ERS NZ will pay a significant sum to the commission towards the investigation’s costs, and will ensure directors and senior executives undertake competition law compliance training.

“Price fixing harms the competitive process, potentially resulting in customers paying higher prices,” said Commission general manager of enforcement, Kate Morrison. “We have taken into account that the company recognises the imprudence of the alleged price-fixing attempt, has undertaken to improve compliance training, and has made payment towards our investigation costs.”

Morrison praised the whistleblower for not agreeing to the price-fixing attempt and approaching the Commission.

The Ministry of Economic Development is reviewing the government’s approach to price collusion, and is considering criminalising cartels.

Had the commission proceeded with its case, ERS faced a fine of up to $10 million for the company, plus a maximum of $500,000 for individuals involved.

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