Settling for $ 95m
Amcor, Visy close price fixing class action
CARDBOARD box manufacturers Amcor Ltd and Visy Board Pty Ltd will pay out at least $ 95 million to thousands of businesses after settling a drawn-out class action over alleged price fixing.
The sett lement c o mes almost five years after the class action began, on behalf of 4500 businesses seeking damages from the alleged cartel behaviour by Amcor and Visy.
One member welcomed the settlement, but said the action was about more than money.
Filed by law firm Maurice Blackburn, the action alleged that between January and April 2000, Amcor and Visy entered into a cartel to fix corrugated fibreboard packaging prices and reduce competition for each other’s customers.
The first cartel arrangement spread via secondary agreements to see some prices increased each year from 2000 to 2003 for noncontract customers, it was alleged.
Amcor is to pay two thirds of the settlement figure and Visy the remainder, but the agreement also includes the payment of all legal costs, meaning the bill for each company will be significantly higher.
Amcor told the Australia Securities Exchange it would pay $ 63.3 million of the settlement, plus interest of $ 25.6 million.
The sum of legal costs will be determined by the court.
The settlement still requires court approval, with the next hearing scheduled for March 24.
Involved in the class ac- tion were grocery and vegetable suppliers, industrial companies, meat and poultry packers, dairy companies and consumer goods suppliers.
One member of the action was Greg Worth, a North Queensland banana farmer and former owner of banana packing business Australian Banana Company.
He said the payout would be beneficial, given almost his entire crop was wiped out by Cyclone Yasi.
‘‘ I am happy there is compensation for small businesses and farmers, particularly in North Queensland, where funds coming in will be welcome after the natural disasters of this year,’’ Mr Worth said. ‘‘ I joined this action for reasons other than money. It is the principle of it too.
‘‘ If these big companies collude and make profits at other people’s expense, they have to be held accountable,’’ he said.
Amcor shares outper - formed a significantly weaker market yesterday, losing one cent to $ 6.98.
DRAWN-OUT PROCESS: 4500 businesses will benefit from the settlement