Two Sydney companies, Renegade Gas and Speed-E-Gas and three senior company members have received penalties totalling $8.3 million over a gas cartel that ran for five years in Sydney, supplying the forklift industry.
Speed-E-Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Origin Energy, while privately-owned Renegade trades as Supagas NSW.
The Federal Court handed down the penalties for engaging in cartel conduct between 2006 and 2011, finding that senior officers and sales staff had a “no-poaching” arrangement that meant they would not supply LPG to forklifts if they were already the competitor’s customer.
Justice Gordon ordered Renegade Gas to pay $4.8 million, and Speed-E-Gas $3.1 million, for engaging in cartel conduct. The latter’s lower fine was the result of them cooperating with the ACCC’s investigation into the matter.
Three individuals also involved were fined, including former Renegade Gas managing director Paul Berman, who copped a $250,000 penalty and was disqualified from managing corporations for three years.
A senior officer at Renegade Gas was fined $100,000 and a former senior officer of Speed-E-Gas, $50,000.
Justice Gordon found the actions of the two companies were deliberate, largely covert, and long standing. It had the potential to adversely affect a high proportion of manufacturing and distribution businesses across Sydney and reduced competition and the chance for businesses to save money of gas costs.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said the penalty imposed on Berman is one of the largest penalties ordered against an individual for engaging in cartel conduct.
“For companies of the size of Renegade Gas and Speed-E-Gas, these are very significant penalties which take into account the deliberate and largely covert conduct which occurred over a substantial length of time and which involved very senior management from both companies,” he said.
The owner of Speed-E-Gas, Origin Energy Limited, did not participate in the cartel conduct and was not joined as respondent to the proceedings.
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