November 22, 2019: The European Commission’s General Court on November 7 almost halved a fine levied on battery recycling firm Campine for its role in an alleged price-fixing cartel that operated between 2009 and 2012.
Commenting on the €3.9 million ($4.3 million) reduction, from the original €8.2 million ($9 million), Campine CEO Wim de Vos said: “Campine is happy that the fine got reduced, but we continue to believe we are innocent. There was no effect at all on battery market prices during that period.
“We cannot comment on the cartel and the price fixing, as it dates from the period 2009-2012 and most, if not all, of the concerned people are no longer at Campine.”
Campine chairman Patrick De Groote insisted the company had not actively participated in the cartel formation, but was ‘dragged along into it by one of our customers’.
“We are glad the court already recognized the very low involvement of Campine in the alleged cartel actions, but we are still of the opinion that Campine did not actively participate,” he said.
The saga began in September 2012, when the European Commission said it had conducted dawn raids on the premises of several scrap battery and scrap lead buyers for the production of recycled lead.
The result of the inspections was that the EC fined three lead battery recycling companies — ECOBAT Technologies, Campine and Recylex — a total of €67.6 million ($72.4 million) for their participation in a cartel to fix the prices of scrap automotive batteries in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
A fourth, Johnson Controls (now Clarios), was given immunity from any penalty because of its cooperation in the matter.
The collusion had been carried out via telephone calls, emails and text messages, with coded language used to signal different price levels, the investigation found.
“The parties were well aware of the illegal character of their contacts and sometimes tried to disguise them by using coded language, for example, referring to weather conditions to signal different price levels,” the EC said.
“By coordinating to lower the prices they paid for scrap batteries, the four companies disrupted the normal functioning of the market and prevented competition on price.”
All of the companies have received reductions in the size of their fines.
The heaviest fine was levied on ECOBAT, which was originally ordered to pay €65.4 million but was later halved to €32.7 million.
Recylex was granted a 30% discount for its cooperation, which left a €26.7 million fine.
Recylex press and investor contact Gabriel Zeitlin said the firm had decided to lodge an appeal with the European Union Court of Justice following the General Court’s decision this May to dismiss their appeal.
“We do not comment on any decision from the EU commission or any legal entity regarding any third party,” he said.
“It should be noted that from the beginning of this investigation, Recylex raised awareness and provided training to all sales teams in all of the group’s subsidiaries.
“The group adopted a code of ethics aimed at raising awareness among all employees of the importance of compliance with application regulations, particularly those relating to competition law.”
The Recylex Group consists of four subsidiary business segments — lead, zinc, plastics and special metals.