Michael Grenfell, CMA's Executive Director of Enforcement
Michael Grenfell, the CMA’s Executive Director of Enforcement

The UK Court of Appeal has upheld a fine for breach of competition law issued to a firm by the Competition and Markets Authority. The firm, Balmoral Tanks, had already appealed against the fine at a lower court.

In December 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) fined Balmoral Tanks, a supplier of steel water tanks, £130,000 for taking part in an exchange of competitively-sensitive information on prices and pricing intentions with 3 other competitors. The exchange took place at a single meeting in July 2012 at which Balmoral was invited to join a long-running cartel to allocate customers and fix prices. Balmoral refused to take part in the customer allocation and price-fixing cartel but exchanged competitively-sensitive information with its competitors. That meeting was secretly recorded by the CMA and involved senior directors. The fine had been ratified at the Competition Appeal Tribunal and as a result Balmoral went to the Court of Appeal.

The CMA’s Executive Director of Enforcement, Michael Grenfell, CMA’s Executive Director of Enforcement, 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 Balmoral Tanks case – what we’ve learnt

This case sends out an important message to all businesses that they must be clear on how to react in a meeting if asked to share commercially sensitive information or join a cartel.  It also demonstrates how just a single meeting, handled incorrectly, can come back to haunt you.

The CMA, together with VinciWorks, provides guidance and resources to help businesses avoid making the same mistake as Balmoral: