ACCC loses laundry cartel appeal

The ACCC lost its appeal on Friday against a ruling that there was insufficient evidence to find
PZ Cussons Australia (Cussons) engaged in cartel behaviour in the laundry detergent market.

The consumer watchdog took action against Colgate, Cussons, former Colgate executive Paul Ansell and Woolworths Ltd in 2013, alleging the parties agreed to stop supplying standard concentrate detergent in favour of ultra-concentrate detergent.

In 2016 Colgate and Woolworths admitted to engaging in anti-competitive behaviour in the laundry detergent market, and as a result were handed down penalties of $18 million and $9 million respectively.

“We took this action because the alleged conduct related to an essential household product that is frequently purchased and used by Australian consumers,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said following the Federal Court decision on Friday.

“The ACCC takes cartel conduct extremely seriously, due to its impact on consumers and the wider economy.”

The ACCC’s case against Cussons was dismissed in December 2017 but the competition watchdog lodged its appeal in February 2018.

Sims said this type of conduct is an “enduring enforcement and compliance priority” for the ACCC.

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