Tue. Jan 31st, 2023

Brussels, 29  November 2022

The European Commission has fined Sunpor, Synbra, Synthomer, Synthos and Trinseo a total of €157 million for participating in a cartel concerning purchases on the styrene monomer merchant market. INEOS was not fined as it revealed the cartel to the Commission under the leniency programme. All six companies admitted their involvement in the cartel and agreed to settle the case.

The six buyers of styrene exchanged sensitive commercial information and coordinated their negotiation strategy on an industry reference price of styrene (the Styrene Monthly Contract Price or ‘SMCP’). Unlike in most cartels where companies conspire to increase their sales prices, the six companies colluded to lower an element of the price of styrene.

The Commission’s investigation revealed the existence of a single and continuous infringement in the European Economic Area, spanning from 1 May 2012 to 30 June 2018.

The fines were set on the basis of the Commission’s 2006 Guidelines on fines. All parties, except one, cooperated with the Commission under the leniency programme (2006 Leniency Notice). INEOS received full immunity for revealing the cartel. Sunpor, Synthomer Synthos and Trinseo benefited from a reduction of their fine for their cooperation with the Commission’s investigation

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said:

With our decision today we fine six companies which participated in a purchasing cartel of styrene, a key input for many chemical products. The companies colluded and exchanged information on an industry reference price for styrene. Their plan was to influence the reference price negotiations to their advantage to buy styrene at a lower price. Purchasing cartels are not the most common type of cartels. Still, they are prohibited under our EU competition rules. They distort the competitive process which should be based on companies’ independent decisions, and we will not tolerate them.

A press release is available online.

Source – EU Commission

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