Three multinational vitamin fined for vitamin price fixing

Thursday, March 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PERTH, Australia (AP) _ Three multinational vitamin companies were Wednesday fined a record 26 million Australian dollars (dlrs 13.8 million) for conspiring to fix animal vitamin prices.

The fine imposed by the Federal Court in the Western Australia state capital, Perth, was the largest ever under Australia's Trade Practices Act.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took the action after court rulings overseas in which vitamin makers admitted to a global conspiracy to inflate the price of animal and human vitamins.

Last October in Milwaukee, six vitamin companies agreed to pay U.S. dlrs 335 million to settle a lawsuit accusing them of conspiring to fix prices.

The companies involved in that settlement were F. Hoffmann-La Roche of Switzerland; BASF of Germany; Aventis of France; and Japanese companies Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., Eisai Co. and Daiichi Pharmaceutical Co.

In the Australian proceedings, Roche Vitamins Australia Pty Ltd, BASF Australia Ltd (BAL) and Aventis Animal Nutrition Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to colluding to artificially inflate the price of bulk vitamins.

Federal Court justice Kevin Lindgren ordered that Roche pay 15 million Australian dollars (dlrs 8 million) for its part in the conspiracy, BAL 7.5 million Australian dollars (dlrs 4 million) and Aventis Animal Nutrition Pty Ltd 3.5 million Australian dollars (dlrs 1.8 million).

Lindgren also banned the companies from meeting for four years to discuss any matters related to price fixing.

Businesses and individuals affected by the price-fixing conspiracy of animal vitamins include stock feed companies, primary producers and the racing industry.

``The price fixing they've been engaging in has inflated prices significantly. With this decision, we expect that inflated price to be removed from the market and (there to be) lower prices for primary producers, ACCC Western Australian regional director Stuart Smith said.

Representatives of the vitamin companies, who attended a videoconference of the court proceedings in Sydney, declined to comment on the ruling.