Associated Lead Mills Ltd and HJ Enthoven Ltd (trading as BLM British Lead) admitted to collusion after an investigation by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA).
A third company, Calder Industrial Materials Ltd, is also under investigation in relation to one of the arrangements and has not made any admissions.
In its original provisional findings, the CMA alleged that Associated Lead Mills, BLM British Lead and Calder Industrial Materials – which together account for about 90% of UK rolled lead supplies – entered into a cartel to share the market among themselves through, for example, the allocation of customers.
The CMA has now revised its provisional findings and issued the three firms with a ‘supplementary statement of objections’, outlining its updated allegations. The CMA’s revised provisional view is that there was not a single overall cartel arrangement, but rather four separate arrangements that broke competition law.
The CMA’s revised provisional findings indicate that Associated Lead Mills and BLM British Lead entered into arrangements including:
- sharing the market, including by arranging not to target certain customers
- colluding on prices
- exchanging commercially sensitive information on prices
- arranging not to supply a new business that risked disrupting the firms’ existing customer relationships and was also a potential competitor in the market.
In the light of the CMA’s updated provisional findings, both Associated Lead Mills and BLM British Lead have now admitted to their parts in these arrangements, which took place between October 2015 and March 2017.
The two firms have agreed to pay fines as part of a settlement, if there is a formal final decision that the law has been broken. Associated Lead Mills has agreed to pay a maximum fine of £1.8m and BLM British Lead £9.5m.
With regard to Calder Industrial Materials, the CMA has provisionally found that it became involved at a later stage in the arrangement with Associated Lead Mills and BLM British Lead not to supply a new business that risked disrupting the firms’ customer relationships and was a potential competitor in the market. Calder Industrial Materials has made no admission of liability and the CMA’s investigation is continuing.