Photographer: Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

Metal Recyclers Fined $72.4 Million for Battery Price Fixing

Updated on
  • Eco-Bat, Recylex and Campine colluded on lead-acid recycling
  • EU says they harmed battery collectors and scrap dealers

Eco-Bat Technologies Ltd, Recylex SA and Campine NV were fined 68 million euros ($72.4 million) by European Union regulators for teaming together to push down prices for car batteries they recycle to sell lead to battery manufacturers.

Eco-Bat was fined 32.7 million euros, Recylex was ordered to pay 26.7 million euros and Campine will pay about 8.2 million euros, the European Commission said in an e-mailed statement. Their collusion lowered the value of used batteries sold for scrap, harming price competition between battery collectors and scrap dealers, regulators said.

The auto industry has been a focus for regulators who are probing how auto suppliers coordinate to shore up their own profits. Truckmakers were ordered last year to pay nearly 3 billion euros for setting prices for more than a decade. Almost all car batteries in the EU are recycled, the EU said.

The EU took the unusual move of increasing fines by 10 percent because penalties are usually based on sales of the products, which in this case were artificially lower.

Johnson Controls Inc. won’t pay a fine because it was the first to tell regulators about collusion with smaller rivals.

The European Commission sent formal complaints to five lead recycling companies in 2015, alleging they illegally agreed to reduce the purchase price for scrap lead-acid batteries, usually from cars, which are recycled to make into new products. The lower prices paid to scrap dealers helped the cartel to make higher profit margins from 2009 to 2012 in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, the EU said.

Eco-Bat said it had already recorded a provision of 34 million euros in its third quarter accounts for 2016 for the fine on its German and French units. The company is "reviewing the decision and has not yet determined whether it will appeal" to the EU courts, it said in a statement.

Recylex declined to immediately comment. The company’s shares were suspended from trading in Paris earlier today at the company’s request. It previously said it didn’t make any provisions for a penalty "given the tremendous uncertainty concerning the size of any fine."

Campine said the fine shouldn’t affect the company’s "short-term continuity" and would be booked in its results for the 2016 financial year, which haven’t yet been finalized, according to a statement. It hadn’t previously made a provision for the fine.

"Campine is in complete disagreement with the decision and will undertake immediate action to appeal against this decision" at the EU’s General Court, the company said.

(Updates with companies’ comments from seventh paragraph.)
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