Europe’s highest court is set to rule on Wednesday 7th January whether the European Commission was right to impose millions of euros in fines against a large cement cartel in 1994. European antitrust regulators fined 41 cement producers a total of €250 million for taking part in anti-competitive market practices from 1983 to 1994 – particularly over restricting the export of grey and white cement.
The total sanction was subsequently reduced to €110 million on administrative and technical grounds in March 2000 after an appeal against the decision was brought by the companies before Europe’s lower court, the Court of First Instance. Six cement companies, Aalborg Portland, Irish Cement, Ciments français Italcementi - Fabbriche Riunite Cemento, Buzzi Unicem and Cementir - Cementerie del Tirreno then also appealed against the reduced fine to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg – bringing Wednesday’s court date. In reducing the total fine on first appeal, the CFI also annulled penalties against 16 of the companies because the commission did not clarify their involvement in the cartel. However, the court agreed with the commission that companies operated a cartel to restrict exports. It defined this as “a single agreement between all the applicants that was designed to ensure non-transhipment to home markets”. It remains the largest collective action ever brought before the EU courts.