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The Herald (Scotland): Shell fined §108m for fixing prices in Dutch road works cartel

RAF CASERT, Brussels September 14 2006
 
ROYAL Dutch Shell was among 14 companies fined §267m (£180m) by the European Union yesterday, following a ruling that they had run a cartel over eight years to fix the price of a key asphalt ingredient for Dutch road works projects.

The oil giant has to pay by far the highest fine – §108m – in the road bitumen investigation. In a statement, the European Commission said the company was an instigator, took the leadership in the cartel and was a repeat offender.

“We should not have attended these meetings and we regret our involvement in this case,” president-director Rein Willems of Shell Nederland said in a statement.

Alexandra Wright, of the parent company Royal Dutch Shell in London, said the company would need time to study the reasoning behind the fines before it decides whether to appeal. She could not comment on whether Shell’s fine is the largest the company has ever faced.

The EU head office said the KWS company tried to obstruct the Commission’s investigation.

The fines were the seventh-largest imposed on a cartel by the EU executive. EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has often stressed that one of her main objectives is to counter market-distorting cartels.

The bitumen road construction market in the Netherlands was valued at §62m in 2002 and the fines combined were over four times the annual value.

“It is very high compared to the value of the market,” said EU spokesman Jonathan Todd, arguing that there were serious aggravating circumstances involving Shell and KWS, which was fined §27.36m.

Shell’s fine was increased by 50% because of its involvement in previous cartels and another 50% for instigating and leading the cartel. -AP

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