N.Z. fines Australian firm $3.5m over cardboard cartel

A store employee stocks shelves with bottled drinks packaged by Amcor Ltd.

WELLINGTON - New Zealand has fined Australian packaging giant Visy NZ$3.6 million (S$3.5 million) for price fixing, the competition watchdog said Thursday.

Visy agreed to pay and admitted liability for its role in an illegal pricing cartel with rival Amcor in the cardboard packaging market, as part of a pre-trial agreement in the High Court in Auckland , the New Zealand Commerce Commission said.

"Preventing price-fixing is important to protect New Zealanders from anti-competitive conduct and the substantial penalty the court awarded should be a deterrent to others who might breach the act," commission chairman Mark Berry said in a statement.

The long-running case dates back to tenders with large corporate clients that Visy was involved in between 2001 and 2004.

Similar action brought by the Australian regulator against Visy resulted in a then-record Aus$36 million ($41.2 million) fine in 2007.