Five Punished for Ceremonial Palm Frond Cartel
Five cartelists have all been given sentenced to three-months’ community service and fines of 30,000 New Israeli shekels for fixing the prices of ceremonial palm fronds. The fronds were sold during the month before Sukkoth – a Jewish religious festival – in 1998.
The District Court in Jerusalem heard evidence, in a case brought in 2000, that prices in 1998 were significantly higher than the year before. In addition, the palm fronds’ prices were higher than in the beginning of 1998 season, in which the restrictive arrangement was made.
In its decision, the court said that the punishment should be severe, as this was a horizontal price-fixing arrangement, which is a hard-core infringement. Also, the result was a significant increase in the price of palm fronds.
There were also considerations in favor of the accused, including the legal advice they received, which allowed the partnership agreement signed by them. But this argument was rejected by the court because the accused did not inform the lawyer of the full facts. Even so, the court was willing to accept that this was done in good faith.
Another argument for a lighter punishment was that the arrangement was made in a small sized market and for a short period – the whole annual demand for palm fronds is concentrated in that period. Finally, the court took into consideration the age and bad financial situation of the accused.
This market is relatively small and the restrictive arrangement was for a short term, so it seems that the court’s emphasis is on severe punishment for cartel offences.
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