Colombia’s trade and industry regulator (SIC) has fined the local units of cement companies Cemex and Holcim for not having provided the institution with information on price changes, as previously agreed with the authority, Bogotá press reported.
Because of alleged price fixing in the domestic market last year, Cemex, Holcim and Cementos Argos agreed in December that if cement prices were changed, they would make available the relevant information, but in May SIC made visits to the companies and decided that Holcim and Cemex had not complied.
Argos avoided being punished because indications are that the firm did not change prices between January and May.
SIC therefore cashed in guarantees made by the two companies for a total 2.34bn pesos (US$1mn) - 1.53bn pesos in the case of Holcim and 816mn pesos from Cemex.
Holcim has claimed in response that the decision of SIC is incomprehensible, according to daily Portafolio. SIC has not applied due process and ignored the evidence it provided, the company said.
"Unjust decisions have been made that infringe constitutional and legal rights," Holcim was cited as saying by the daily.
SIC has stated that the issue of last year’s agreement with the companies is completely independent of its current price fixing inquiry. This is expected to be completed in December and a decision on the findings will likely be made in 2007.
The regulator has been undertaking an investigation into cement prices since early this year after they rose by some 50% towards the end of last year despite having been relatively stable previously.
Government officials have stated clearly in recent weeks that excessive increases in such an important building material will not be tolerated and if any evidence of price fixing is found, controls could be applied.