Balmoral Tanks has lost a long-running legal fight with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) after a court upheld a £130,000 fine imposed by the regulator.
The CMA issued the penalty to Balmoral Tanks, a subsidiary of Aberdeen-based engineering services company Balmoral Group, after it was found illegally exchanging price information in a secretly recorded meeting in 2012.
The watchdog said Balmoral, a supplier of steel water tanks, took part in an exchange of competitively-sensitive information on prices and pricing intentions with three other companies, breaching competition law.
In the meeting, Balmoral was also invited to take part in a “price-fixing cartel”, but refused to do so.
Three other firms that were involved in the cartel – Franklin Hodge Industries, Galglass and KW Supplies – were fined more than £2.6m for their plans “to rig bids for contracts between 2005 and 2012”.
The CMA first issued the fine to Balmoral Tanks in December 2016, which has been fought by the firm both through the Competition Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal.
At the end of 2016, group chairman Jim Milne said: “As we were instrumental in the demise of the cartel we firmly believe this decision is incorrect and wholly disproportionate.”
The Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed the appeal in its entirety, upholding the CMA fine.
Executive director of enforcement at the CMA, Michael Grenfell, said: “This important judgment from the Court of Appeal sends a clear and unequivocal message, not just in this sector but to all businesses across the UK.
“If companies exchange competitively-sensitive, confidential information, even at just one meeting, that is itself a breach of competition law.
“The CMA is committed to using the full range of its powers to crack down on such illegal behaviour, which includes issuing fines.”
Following yesterday’s decision, a spokesman for Balmoral Tanks said: “Our feelings on the judgement are well known and we have no further comment to make at this time.”