The Federal Court has ordered that overhead crane company NQ Cranes Pty Ltd pay a $1 million penalty after NQ Cranes admitted that it had entered into an anti-competitive cartel agreement with a competitor, in proceedings brought by the ACCC.
NQ Cranes admitted contravening the Competition and Consumer Act by entering into a cartel agreement with a competitor that had the purpose of allocating overhead crane service customers in parts of Queensland and the Newcastle region.
In a ‘distributorship agreement’, signed in August 2016, the competitors agreed to co-operate in the market for servicing overhead cranes by not targeting each other’s current customers in parts of Queensland and in Newcastle. The agreement also stated the companies would instead focus on competing against other companies in the industry, instead of each other.
“This explicit written agreement to share the market was clearly anti-competitive and had the potential to limit the service options available to the many businesses that use overhead cranes,” ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver said.
“Businesses are reminded that the ACCC will investigate and take appropriate enforcement action not just against large corporates or multi-nationals. We will carefully examine any allegation of attempts to interfere with free competition by engaging in cartel conduct, and we encourage businesses which have concerns about activities in their markets to contact us confidentially.”
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“All businesses should be aware of their obligations under the Competition and Consumer Act, and be proactive in ensuring compliance with the law,” Ms Carver said.
NQ Cranes, which made joint submissions with the ACCC to the Court on penalty and other orders, was also ordered to pay part of the ACCC’s costs and establish and implement compliance program.