The Times: Shell accused of taking part in tar cartel (ShellNews.net)
By Carl Mortished, International Business Editor
October 22, 2004
SHELL has been accused of taking part in a cartel to fix the price of bitumen in the Netherlands.
The oil company confirmed yesterday that it had been accused by the European Commission of taking part with 13 firms, in anti-competitive behaviour in the Dutch market for bitumen, an oil product used in road surfacing.
Shell said that it had received a statement of objections from the European Commission, a formal notice setting out the competition authority’s accusations.
The offices of Shell and other oil companies were raided by the Commission in late 2002 in relation to concerns about collusion between the firms in the bitumen market.
The charges relate to a series of meetings between oil companies, construction groups and bitumen suppliers in 2002. A spokesman for Shell said that the oil firm had disclosed details of the meetings to the Commission.
“We should not have been present at these meetings and we regret our involvement in this case,” said Rien Willems, the chief executive of Shell Netherlands.
The European Commission operates a leniency programme whereby companies that disclose evidence of price-fixing activity can secure lower penalties in any enforcement action by the competition authority.
It is not known whether or not Shell blew the whistle in this case. Ballast Nedam, the construction firm, was also investigated in the Commission’s inquiry.
Neelie Kroes, the incoming EU Commissioner for Competition, was a supervisory board member of the company for 15 years. She has indicated that she would step aside from an inquiry concerning a firm with which she had connections.