On 8 September 2022, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (KKV) found that six companies, namely the three largest Finnish wholesalers and the three largest manufacturers of plastic infrastructure pipeline products for heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), had participated in prohibited coordination. The infringement lasted for more than six years, from 2009 to 2016. The KKV proposed that the Market Court impose a total fine of approximately €44 million.
Plastic heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) infrastructure pipelines are used for different types of construction, electrical and water supply products, such as pipes, runoff water systems, sewage systems, drainage systems and cable protection pipelines. These products are typically used in major constructions projects.
The aim of the prohibited coordination was to increase the price level for infrastructure pipeline products by restricting wholesale competition.
The conduct of the infringers was based on reciprocity: as a rule, the manufacturers refrained from directly trading with customers and directed sales to wholesalers. This was to the detriment of customers, especially in large construction projects, who hoped for the opportunity to also trade directly with manufacturers (as the price level is typically lower than wholesale). In return, wholesalers refrained from taking important quantities of competing products of other manufacturers who were not part of the prohibited coordination.
The products in question are used in large construction projects, with a total market value estimated at around EUR 156 million in 2016. While there are only a few large suppliers in the affected market, the parties represented the vast majority of the market for plastic plumbing and heating products, with a combined share of around 70% both in terms of production and sales. Given the size of the market in 2016 and assuming a stable market size during the cartel period, the volume of trade affected could be estimated at EUR 936 million.
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