On Tuesday the European Commission announced a fine on Altstoff Recycling Austria (ARA) worth €6 million for abusing dominant market position.
The waste collecting company was found to have been blocking competitors from entering the Austrian market for management of household packaging waste from 2008 to 2012, in breach of EU antitrust rules.
ARA has been the dominant provider for household packaging waste services in Austria since at least 2008, the beginning of the infringement.
Competitors who wanted to enter or expand in the market had no other option available than ARA’s infrastructure, to which the company refused to give access from March 2008 and April 2012.
“The waste management sector is an important part of the circular economy. Effective competition is vital for making recycling affordable for consumers ” said Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy.
Fine reduction on “efficient cooperation”
The Commission took into account the comprehensive and efficient cooperation by ARA in calculating the fine, which was reduced by 30% to €6 015 000 for two reasons:
Firstly, after the Commission started its investigation, Austria adopted a new waste law in September 2013 and ARA began granting access to its household waste collection infrastructure.
Secondly, the structural remedy was suggested by ARA, which cooperated “efficiently” with the Commission.
However, the investigation lasted over six years and therefore some observers noted that this considerable amount of time can hardly be defined as efficient.
“Antitrust procedures are extremely complex and require a very deep analysis” said Ricardo Cardoso, spokesperson of the European Commission, rejecting these accusations. “In this case, the cooperative approach arrived at a considerable late stage of the procedure but has indeed offered a far reaching outcome” he added.
On the same date, ARA released a statement accepting the decision and announcing that the fine will be paid entirely from the group’s equity and will not affect the tariffs.
It is not the first time that the Commission allow the reduction of fines previously issued when it comes to competition and antitrust. In fact, last July commissioner Vestager decided to reduce by 10% the fines on five truck companies during a settlement procedure for participating in a cartel.