LAWFUEL – Law News Network – On July 17 The Federal Court was advised that a $30.5 million settlement has been reached in Australia’s first ever cartel class action and court approval of the settlement was sought.
The “Vitamins class action” was brought by leading class action law firm Maurice Blackburn Cashman on behalf of thousands of small and medium businesses who were the victims of a price-fixing cartel by giant pharmaceutical companies Roche, BASF and Aventis.
Kim Parker, Principal, of Maurice Blackburn Cashman said the proposed $30.5 million settlement was vindication for the many businesses which either lost market share or paid inflated prices for animal feed as a result of deliberate market manipulation by powerful companies.
“This is a great result for all small and medium businesses which rely on a fair market to make a fair return. Price fixing and market rigging by powerful organisations are the worst kinds of anti-competitive abuse.
“After seven years of legal battles, the proposed settlement will finally deliver justice to the many victims of these powerful corporations that deliberately fixed prices and rigged markets causing their victims to lose many millions of dollars. Businesses affected by the price fixing will now be able to recoup the money Roche, BASF and Aventis have taken from them.
“If the Court approves this settlement it will be the first successfully concluded cartel class action in Australia. The outcome should send a big signal to powerful companies that anticompetitive behaviour will not be tolerated by their victims or the Australian courts.
“This case signals a new era in bringing illegal corporate anti-competitive behaviour to account and in protecting the interests of those who are deliberately ripped off,” Ms Parker said.
Richard Reeder, Managing Director of BEC Feed Solutions Pty Ltd, one of the applicants, said he was proud that his business had played a lead role in delivering justice to those affected.
“It was very disappointing that these multinational companies chose to deliberately deceive the Australian market at all let alone deceive it for ten years. The price fixing had a significant affect on our business and all those involved in intensive animal livestock production. It is now a relief to have this behind us and have the market now compete on a level playing field,” Mr Reeder said.
The Applicants in this class action alleged that for a ten-year period during the 1990’s, Roche, BASF and Aventis fixed prices for a range of vitamins products used for animal nutrition or health. As a result of the cartel, individuals (many of them farmers) and businesses lost market share or paid inflated prices.
Those affected included manufacturers, distributors and suppliers of pre-mix, stock feed; livestock, veterinary and performance enhancing preparations; manufacturers of pet foods and farmers.
Maurice Blackburn Cashman is the only legal firm in Australia to have successfully conducted a cartel class action, and is also acting in a $200 million civil damages class action against corrugated box manufacturer, Amcor Limited, on behalf of thousands of victims of the cartel that Amcor maintained between 2000 and 2005.