Gas cylinder suppliers pay for 'cartel conduct'

A CARTEL of forklift gas cylinder suppliers in Sydney is facing $8.3 million in court-ordered penalties.

The companies, Renegade Gas (trading as Supagas NSW) and Speed-E-Gas (an Origin Energy subsidiary), and three current and former senior officers of the companies were found to have engaged in cartel conduct.

After the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigation began in 2011, it took legal action against the men and companies in August 2012.

The Federal Court found that between 2006 and 2011, the two companies gave effect to a "no-poaching understanding", including not supplying or offering to supply gas to the other company's clients.

The court ordered Renegade Gas pay a $4.8 million penalty and Speed-E-Gas pay a $3.1 million penalty for engaging in cartel conduct.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said for companies the size of the two the penalties were "very significant" and took into account the "deliberate and largely covert conduct" over a long period of time.

"Detecting, stopping and deterring domestic and international cartels is a priority for the ACCC as cartels not only cheat consumers and other businesses, they also restrict healthy economic growth," he said.

The court also ordered the former managing director of Renegade, Paul Berman, to be disqualified from managing companies for three years and pay a $250,000 penalty.

An un-named "senior officer" at Renegade was also ordered to pay $100,000, while a former senior officer of Speed-E-Gas was ordered to pay $50,000.