The European Commission has notified five companies that it suspects them of taking part in a car battery recycling cartel.
It has sent statement of objections to the suspected firms over concerns they fixed the purchase prices for scrap lead-acid batteries in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands between 2009 and 2012.
Around 80% of lead scrap comes from waste lead-acid car batteries and practically all car batteries undergo recycling.
Recycling companies process the batteries in various steps to produce pure lead or lead alloys, most of which is used for making new car batteries.
The Commission alleges the firms agreed or co-ordinated their behaviour to maintain higher profit margins.
“As a result, they may have lowered the prices paid to scrap dealers, many of which are small and medium-sized companies. Since such behaviour would likely reduce the value of used batteries sold for scrap, this could ultimately be to the detriment of sellers”, it added.
Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner for Competition said: “Fighting cartels is a very high priority for the European Commission. This is because of the serious harm cartels cause to consumers and businesses. And the huge damage cartels inflict on the economy as a whole in terms of removing incentives to compete on prices or to innovate.”
The Commission did not name the five companies.