BlueScope Steel accused of price fixing by ACCC

BlueScope Steel accused of price fixing by ACCC

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken action against BlueScope Steel (ASX: BSL) and its former general manager sales and marketing Jason Ellis for alleged cartel conduct.

The watchdog alleges that between September 2013 and June 2014 BlueScope and Ellis attempted to induce steel distributors in Australia and overseas to sign agreements with price fixing provisions included.

ACCC chair Rod Sims says the watchdog is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties and costs against BlueScope and Ellis, as well as an order disqualifying Ellis from managing corporations.

"This matter involves allegations of serious cartel conduct," says Sims.

"BlueScope is the major manufacturer of flat steel products in Australia. Flat steel products are an essential material in a number of important sectors of the Australian economy, including the construction, building, manufacturing, automotive and transport industries."

BlueScope chairman John Bevan says the board is treating the allegations very seriously.

"Since becoming aware of the ACCC's investigation, we have constructively engaged with the ACCC and conducted our own internal investigation," he says.

"While we have not seen all of the evidence that has been relied on by the ACCC, based on what we know today, we do not believe that BlueScope, or any current or former employees, have engaged in cartel conduct."

BlueScope chief executive officer Mark Vassella says the alleged conduct "does not represent the BlueScope way" or the values instilled in the team.

"We take matters of competition law compliance and corporate governance extremely seriously."

In a response released to the ASX this morning, BlueScope also emphasises the ACCC had not alleged that an agreement was reached or that an agreement was implemented.

Shares in BlueScope steel were up 0.57 per cent to $12.36 per share at 10.43am AEST.

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