Recycler fined for abusing market

Tomra, a Norwegian supplier of vending machines for bottle recycling, has been fined 24m euro ($28.8m; £16m) for illegally preventing competition.

The European Commission said the fine – equivalent to 7% of the firm’s 2005 turnover – was the largest it had ever issued in terms of share of revenues.

Brussels found that Tomra had used commercial arrangements with retailers to exclude competitors from its market.

Tomra said that it rejected the Commission’s arguments.

It has yet to decide whether to appeal against the ruling, which followed a 2001 investigation into the company’s behaviour.

Tomra supplies units known as reverse vending machines to retailers in more than 40 countries.

Its machines store and sort cans and other containers for recycling, refunding shoppers who return materials.

Following a complaint by a German firm, the Commission found that Tomra had abused its dominant position in five markets – Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – between 1998 and 2002.

It used rebates, discounts and loyalty agreements to delay and restrict competitors from entering the market, the Commission said.

“This illegal conduct enabled Tomra to extend or artificially maintain its dominant position,” said Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd.

“The abuse was done intentionally and with awareness of the harm they were likely to cause to competition on the market.”

Tomra said it had taken steps in 2004 – before the Commission issued it with its notice of objections – to ensure it practices were legal.

“Regardless of the requirements that have been set forth by the Commission in today’s decision, Tomra operates in accordance with current laws, rules and practices,” the firm said in a statement.

Should it choose to contest the ruling, Tomra has two months in which to appeal to the European Court of Justice.

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