Truck cartel costs Hino dealers more than $1 million

Queensland truck retailers and individuals fined more than $1 million in total penalties for price fixing

Truck cartel costs Hino dealers more than $1 million
Truck cartel costs Hino dealers more than $1 million
November 4, 2009

Two Queensland truck retailers and three individuals have been slapped with more than $1 million in total penalties for their involvement in a truck cartel.

The Brisbane Federal Court found Vanderfield and Sci-Fleet Motors guilty of price fixing and market sharing between February 2005 and September 2006.

Vanderfield, which sells Hino trucks in Toowoomba and on the Gold Coast, and Sci-Fleet, which operates in Brisbane, were each fined $500,000 and company individuals $30,000 each.

Justice John Dowsett found that Vanderfield sales managers Bavin Cherry and John McGuinn and Sci-Fleet sales manager Ross Goodwin breached the Trade Practices Act by making anti-competitive agreements on the sale of light and medium trucks in south east Queensland.

The court also ordered the companies to pay $50,000 each in costs.

The parties made full admissions and also recommended agreed penalties to the court to resolve the matter. It was accepted that the individuals concerned did not understand the law or the legal consequences of their actions.

"This case shows that people acting in responsible positions without a thorough understanding of the Trade Practices Act assume a very dangerous risk for themselves and their employers," Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chairman Graeme Samuel says.

The fines could have been higher had all parties not cooperated with the ACCC.

Samuel says the competition watchdog was able to recommend significant penalty discounts because Sci-Fleet and Goodwin volunteered information that assisted the investigation.

But Samuel used the incident to warn those who do not volunteer information.

"The ACCC will seek much heavier punishment for those who are found guilty but who do not put their hands up, particularly for more serious cartel conduct, which is now a criminal offence," he says.

Individuals risk jail sentences of up to 10 years and fines of up to $220,000 per offence for serious cartel conduct.

Companies can be fined $10 million, three times the total value of the benefits obtained, or 10 per cent of the corporate group's annual turnover in a 12-month period when the contravention occurred.

Sci-Fleet and Vanderfield had earlier given court-enforceable undertakings to the ACCC on their trade practices law compliance programs.

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