ACCC: BlueScope engaged in cartel conduct

The competition watchdog has started civil proceedings against BlueScope Steel for alleged cartel conduct to manipulate the price of flat steel products.

The Australian Competition and and Consumer Commission on Friday said BlueScope and its former general manager of sales and marketing tried to get distributors in Australia and overseas manufacturers to sign agreements with provisions to fix prices.

The alleged offences by BlueScope and James Ellis occurred between September 2013 and June 2014, so the ACCC has acted before the expiry of six-year limitation on civil proceedings.

BlueScope said it has not seen all the evidence but does not believe it or Mr Ellis engaged in cartel conduct.

“The alleged conduct does not represent the BlueScope way, or the values that we work hard to instil in our team,” managing director and chief executive Mark Vassella said.

“We take matters of competition law compliance and corporate governance extremely seriously.”

BlueScope noted that the allegations do not include that the attempt to fix prices was successful.

The ACCC said it has been working closely with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions over the allegations.

“Flat steel products are an essential material in a number of important sectors of the Australian economy, including the construction, building, manufacturing, automotive and transport industries,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

“This matter involves allegations of serious cartel conduct.”

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