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WA air-con players fined $9.1m for collusion

THE Federal Court has handed down $9.1 million in fines to 11 companies and 18 individuals for what it called “a series of bid-rigging and price fixing cartels” in commercial air-conditioning tenders in Western Australia between 1991 and 2003. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission brought a case against the companies, alleging they had held covert meetings and telephone conversations to rig the outcomes of competitive tenders. The bids covered contracts worth up to $9.4 million for air-conditioning in university departments, hospitals, shopping centres and the CSIRO. According to the ACCC, all respondents admitted their involvement and co-operated with the investigation, aside from HVAC, which is currently in liquidation. Handing down his judgement, Justice Nicholson declared that a number of companies in the commercial air-conditioning and mechanical services industry had engaged in illegal bid-rigging and price-fixing cartels. “The companies and individuals involved in the cartels had covert meetings and telephone conversations over many years to rig the outcome of competitive tenders that totalled about $129 million,” ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel, said. “They represented nearly every major commercial mechanical services contractor in WA. The cartels covered contracts from as small as $46,000 to $9.4 million.”

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