Paraffin Wax Cartel

In 2011 CDC filed a damage action enforcing antitrust damage claims previously acquired from purchasers of paraffin wax. The action was launched in the Netherlands against four members of the EEA-wide paraffin wax cartel. Paraffin wax is used mainly for candle production, but also has a wide range of other applications in various industries, including packaging, cosmetics, construction and food.

Background and Facts

By decision of 1 October 2008 (Case COMP/39181 – Candle Waxes), the European Commission determined that the following nine groups of companies participated in EEA-wide anticompetitive concerted practices lasting from at least 1992 to 2005 on the market for paraffin wax:

 

 

Over the course of this single and continuous infringement of the European prohibition on cartels, the cartelists had more than 50 meetings in various European cities and sent well over a hundred letters, faxes and emails in which they fixed target prices and monitored their implementation, allocated customers as well as market shares and exchanged commercially sensitive information. According to the Commission, the common overall plan of these efforts was to reduce and prevent competition on price in order to stabilise or raise prices by agreeing on minimum prices and price increases. Thereby, the cartel members aimed at significantly reducing or even eliminating competitive pressure with the ultimate goal of achieving higher profits. Shell, Sasol, Repsol, RWE and ExxonMobil acknowledged their participation in the anti-competitive agreements and provided evidence to the Commission under the leniency programme.

 

Further information

  • Decision COMP/39181 – Candle Waxes (non-confidential version) of the European Commission of 13 March 2011 (DE) (EN) (FR)
  • Press release Case COMP/39181 (DE) (EN) (FR)

 

Civil proceedings

On 16 September 2011 legal proceedings were started against ExxonMobil, Shell, Total and Sasol for damages resulting from the European paraffin wax cartel. The action was filed in The Hague, the Netherlands.

 

Prior to the filing of the action, eight companies – mostly candle producers – with production sites in five different European countries sold and assigned their damage claims resulting from the paraffin wax cartel to CDC.

 

The detailed transaction data collected from the damaged companies together with other market data show that the cartel resulted in significant price overcharges. Purchasers of paraffin wax incurred damages for which the defendants are liable. The damages are increased by interest as of the day when the damage was incurred.

 

On 1 May 2013, the District Court in The Hague rendered a judgment on a number of preliminary issues. In particular, the District Court confirmed that companies which the Commission found to be members of a cartel can be sued together for damages at the seat of any of their fellow co-cartelists. Furthermore, the District Court rejected the argument that it lacked competence due to jurisdiction clauses allegedly contained in the terms and conditions of some supply contracts between the sellers and purchasers of paraffin wax in the cartel period (for further details see press release).

 

On 17 December 2014, the District Court of The Hague rendered a positive interim judgment dealing with the validity of the assignments and questions of applicable law.  The Court confirmed CDC’s position on all relevant subject matters. In relation to the validity of the assignment the District Court of The Hague took account of the judgment of the Regional Court Düsseldorf and stated that the facts in that judgment were case specific and cannot be transferred to the case at hand. On 15 April 2015, the District Court of The Hague refused the defendants’ request to grant an extraordinary appeal in relation to the Judgment of 17 December 2014. The District Court in particular stated that the judgment of the Higher Regional Court Düsseldorf of 18 February 2015 did not have any relevance for the legal assessment of the case pending before it.

 

In 2015 an out-of-court settlement with Sasol was reached. The action is pending against the remaining three defendants. On 21 September 2016, the District Court of The Hague rendered an interim judgment on the effects of settlements, joint and several liability, passing-on defence, and disclosure of evidence in relation to CDC’s paraffin wax case. The press release of CDC in relation to the judgment is available here.