"The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has found cement manufacturers in violation of the provisions of the Competition Act, 2002, which deals with anti-competitive agreements, including cartels," the Ministry of Corporate Affairs said in a statement.
Grasim [ Get Quote ] Cements (now merged with UltraTech Cements), Lafarge India, JK Cement, India Cements [ Get Quote ], Madras Cements [ Get Quote ], Century Cements and Binani Cement are among the others found guilty and penalised. According to the statement, each of the 10 firms will have to pay a fine amounting to 50 per cent of their profit during 2009-10 and 2010-11, within 90 days.
The penalty would go to a consolidated government fund, CCI member R Prasad said. The commission found the companies had not used the available capacity to keep supplies artificially low and raised prices when demand was higher.
"... the Commission finds that the opposite parties have institutionalised the system of sharing the prices, capacities and production among each other using the platform of the CMA to limit the production and supplies and determine the prices of cement in the market," the order says.
The order notes a written agreement is not necessary to substantiate such cartelisation. The CCI has directed companies to 'cease and desist' from any activity related to an agreement, understanding or arrangement on prices, production and supply.
However, the order does not talk about any mechanism to avoid such cartelisation in future.
"If these companies are found creating cartels in future, the cases can be investigated again and a heavier penalty levied," Prasad said. The cement industry, which has always denied such charges, is expected to take legal recourse.
The order is based on an investigation carried out on 39 companies by the Director General of Investigation, following a complaint from realtors' body Builders Association of India (BAI).
The BAI had alleged cement manufacturers formed a cartel to fix retail prices and reduced production to inflate prices.