EU refuses to confirm reprieve for JCI on cartel malpractice


Despite a Bloomberg report that batteries giant Johnson Controls will avoid having to pay a potentially massive fine by the EU for scheming with other parties to keep used lead prices low, the European Commission refused to make any comment or update when Batteries and Energy Storage Bulletin contacted its office on Monday.

A report by Bloomberg and echoed almost verbatim by other media last week quoted “three people familiar with the case” as saying that because JCI had “owned up to scheming with smaller rivals to slash the price of lead obtained from scrap dealers”, it would not be fined a potential 10% of its global turnover, the amount the EU is entitled to levy for such infringements.

In fact there has been no official statement from the EU since June 2015, when it cited five unnamed companies as “having participated in a purchasing cartel for scrap lead-acid batteries, in breach of EU anti-trust rules”.

Ecobat Technologies, Recylex and Campine have all admitted playing roles in the cartel, with Ecobat reportedly setting aside up to $21 million to pay any fine. The Bloomberg report claims they are expected to be fined in the coming weeks.

The EC raised concerns that between 2009 the cartel of lead recycling companies collaborated in fixing purchase prices for scrap batteries in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands so they could lower prices paid to scrap dealers and in this way maintain higher profit margins.

“Since such behaviour would likely reduce the value of used batteries sold for scrap, this could ultimately be to the detriment of sellers… and violate EU rules that prohibit anticompetitive business practices such as collusion on prices and market sharing,” the EC said.