The ACCC has today commenced civil proceedings in the Federal Court against overhead crane company NQCranes Pty Ltd, alleging it engaged in cartel conduct in contravention of the Competition and Consumer Act.
The ACCC alleges that NQCranes entered into a signed agreement with a competitor in the overhead crane market in August 2016. This agreement allegedly included a cartel provision to share the market by not targeting each other’s customers for overhead crane parts and servicing in Brisbane and Newcastle.
Specifically, it is alleged that NQCranes and its competitor entered into a ‘distributorship agreement’ which contained a provision that the companies would not target each other’s existing service customers in Brisbane and Newcastle.
The ACCC alleges that in meetings, phone calls and emails the companies sought to enter an agreement of ‘mutual benefit’ to both parties, and that the non-targeting of each other’s customers in Brisbane and Newcastle was a key part of that agreement.
“NQCranes was competing for business with a competitor when we allege they agreed to divide the market and not to target each other’s customers. Market sharing is serious, anti-competitive behaviour which harms consumers, other businesses and the economy in general,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“It is illegal for any corporation to make cartel agreements with its competitors, whether they are well known multinationals, or small businesses operating in regional areas. Enforcing cartel laws is an important enduring priority for the ACCC, no matter what type of business is involved,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC is seeking civil penalties, declarations and orders against NQCranes for the alleged conduct.
NQCranes is a privately owned overhead crane company which designs, services and manufactures cranes. It is based in Mackay, Queensland, with operations across Queensland and parts of New South Wales. It provides lifting equipment to a variety of industries, including the mining, steel and defence industries. It describes itself as Australia’s largest independent overhead crane company.
Operators in the crane industry manufacture overhead cranes and gantry cranes. Many of the products, including crane steelwork, hoists, electrics and drives of cranes, are specifically manufactured to meet a client’s needs. Operators frequently provide installation, maintenance and repair services.
Overhead cranes are fixed indoor cranes used to handle heavy loads. They are usually installed in large warehouses and often used as part of the production process, as well as in storage facilities, mining and construction projects.
The ACCC investigates cartel conduct, manages the immunity process and takes civil cartel proceedings in the Federal Court.
Cartel conduct occurs when businesses agree to act together instead of competing with each other. Cartel conduct is an agreement between competitors to price fix, share markets, rig bids and/or control output or limit the amount of goods and services supplied. More information on prohibited cartel conduct can be found on the ACCC’s website.
The maximum civil penalty which can be ordered by the Court under the Competition and Consumer Act for each breach of the cartel laws is the greater of:
- $10 million;
- three times that total value of the benefits that have been obtained and are reasonably attributable to the commission of the offence, if this can be determined; or
- ten per cent of the company’s annual turnover in Australia.
Anyone with information about cartel conduct is urged to call the ACCC Cartel Hotline on (02) 9230 3894.
The attached document below contains the ACCC’s initiating court documents in relation to this matter. We will not be uploading further documents in the event these initial documents are subsequently amended.