Allens acts for PZ Cussons in successfully defending first contested ‘hub and spoke’ cartel case brought by ACCC

Allens has acted for multinational consumer goods company PZ Cussons Pty Ltd (PZ Cussons) in successfully defending a cartel case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). On 24 May 2019, the Full Federal Court dismissed an appeal brought by the ACCC, with costs.

In 2013, the ACCC first took action against:

  • PZ Cussons and Colgate-Palmolive, alleging they had entered into a cartel in relation to the supply of laundry detergents with a third laundry detergent supplier, Unilever; and
  • Woolworths and a former Colgate-Palmolive sales director, alleging they were knowingly concerned in the contraventions by PZ Cussons, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever.

The other respondents in the proceeding – Colgate-Palmolive and Woolworths – settled with the ACCC in 2016, paying pecuniary penalties of $18m and $9m respectively. PZ Cussons denied any wrongdoing.

In 2017, the Federal Court decided in favour of PZ Cussons, finding there was no arrangement or understanding between the suppliers. In February 2018, the ACCC appealed the Federal Court’s decision.

‘The Full Court’s dismissal of the ACCC’s appeal is a great outcome for our long-standing client, following several years of advocacy,’ said Competition, Consumer & Regulatory Practice Group leader Jacqueline Downes.

The Court’s decision builds on the firm’s strong track record representing clients in ACCC proceedings, which recently includes successfully defending Pfizer in proceedings alleging misuse of market power and exclusive dealing.

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