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Five men fined $105k in price-fixing ring

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5/12/2016 Edwin Mitson

Five men have been ordered by the High Court at Auckland to pay a total $105,000 for their roles in a price-fixing agreement over cattle tagging.

Nigel Thorpe, Donald Baines, Douglas Cartridge and Andrew Clark are all current or former members of PGG Wrightson's National Animal Identification and Tracing Act team, while the fifth man, Stuart Chapman was the managing director of Elders Rural Holdings at the time.

The Commerce Commission said the men admitted to working with other members of the New Zealand Stock and Station Agents Association to charge farmers a minimum fee of $25 for the tagging of cattle, or $10 for calves, if the animals didn't have the ear tag on arrival at the sale yard as required after the introduction of the National Animal Identification and Tracing Act 2012 (NAIT).

All admitted wrongdoing and settled with the commission. As well as the penalties, they must each pay $5,000 in costs.

The Commerce Commission launched an investigation into livestock companies fees relating to the implementation of NAIT after receiving a complaint from a Northland farmer in 2012.

Last year PGG Wrightson and Rural Livestock were fined a total of $2.7 million and $475,000 respectively in separate penalty hearings in the High Court at Auckland for price fixing and PGG Wrightson also paid $50,000 towards the commission's investigation costs.

Court proceedings against Elders are ongoing.

The investigation found association members entered into three anti-competitive agreements to set fees when the act took effect in July 2012, including the tagging fee, a radio frequency identification device administration fee of $1.50 per head of cattle to register sale yard-based movements, and increasing existing yard fees by $1.50 per head of cattle.

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