One of the country’s largest suppliers of cement products has been slapped with fines of more than $20 million after being found guilty of anti-competitive conduct.
Queensland-headquartered Cement Australia, which supplies cement products, alternative fuels and waste management services and has sites across the east coast as well as in Tasmania and South Australia under its group of companies, appealed an earlier court penalty of $17.1 million for making and giving effect to agreements that were anti-competitive.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) also appealed the verdict, but sought an increase to the original penalties.
However, the Full Court of the Federal sided with the ACCC and increased the penalties to a total of $20.6 million.
That amount was made up of a $7.29 million penalty against Cement Australia itself, in addition to penalties of $10.28 million against Cement Australia Queensland (formerly QCL), $2.93 million against Pozzolanic Enterprises and a further $100,000 against Pozzolanic Industries.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said his organisation appealed the decision because he wants penalties to serve as a deterrent for future wrongdoing by large businesses.
“The ACCC needs to ensure that penalties act as an effective deterrent for the business concerned and are not simply viewed by large corporations as a cost of doing business,” he said.
The case brings an end to the long-running saga, after the ACCC first launched legal action against the group of companies in 2008.
It wasn’t until 2014 that the Federal Court determined there had been numerous breaches of competition law, and handed down fines worth $18.6 million, that were later reduced by one count to $17.1 million.
Both the ACCC and Cement Australia appealed that verdict mid last year.