The Federal Court has ordered Woolworths to pay penalties totalling $9 million for its involvement in a laundry detergent cartel.
Woolworths admitted to being knowingly concerned in giving effect to an arrangement between laundry detergent giants Colgate-Palmolive, PZ Cussons and Unilever over how they would switch from standard concentrates to ultra concentrates.
The parties all agreed that they would stop supplying standard concentrates to Woolworths in early 2009 and supply only ultra concentrates.
The more concentrated detergents are cheaper to produce and ship and therefore should have been cheaper per wash than the standard detergents, but the competition watchdog alleged that the agreement meant those savings were not passed on to customers.
“By imposing these penalties, the court has acknowledged that Woolworths was knowingly concerned in an anti-competitive understanding which they admitted was reached between laundry detergent manufacturers,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims noted in a statement.
“This penalty is the largest the ACCC has obtained against a party that was an accessory to competition law breaches by being knowingly concerned in anticompetitive conduct.”
Colgate has already been ordered to pay $18 million in penalties for admitted breaches of the Competition and Consumer Act in relation to the cartel conduct.