Illegal Activity Deprived Illinoisans of Lower Prices and Better Quality Service
Chicago, IL - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced settlement agreements with three Midwest packaged ice manufacturers that require the companies to pay the state $597,000 in civil penalties. The settlements result from allegations brought by Attorney General Madigan earlier this year alleging several area ice manufacturers illegally conspired not to compete for packaged ice business in northern and central Illinois in violation of Illinois’ Antitrust Act.
“These companies illegally conspired to manipulate the marketplace,” said Attorney General Madigan. “Today’s agreement holds them accountable for skirting the law and depriving businesses and consumers from competitive pricing.”
Home City Ice, Cincinnati, Ohio, will pay $512,500; Sisler’s Dairy and Products, Inc., Ohio, Ill., will pay $44,500 and Stoutin Premium Ice, Casey, Ill, will pay $40,000 to the State of Illinois. The companies also agreed to a 10-year injunction prohibiting the anticompetitive activity.
Home City Ice and Sisler’s Dairy and Products were among the defendants in a complaint filed by the Attorney General in March, while Stoutin Premium Ice settled with the Attorney General’s office prior to the complaint filing. The case against two remaining defendants – Lang Ice Co., Chicago, and Tinley Ice Company, University Park, Ill., along with two individual defendants: Tinley Ice Company’s former president Harold M. Teehan III and its current president Timothy Teehan, both of Tinley Park, Ill. – is ongoing. The companies manufacture and deliver packaged ice for individual consumption and for use by retailers such as convenience and grocery stores that sell packaged ice to consumers. The manufacturers also sell ice to government entities and groups for special events.
The Attorney General alleged the companies engaged in unlawful cooperative arrangements with their co-conspirators divvying up markets, trading customers, sharing pricing information, discussing price increases and discouraging customers from switching suppliers by either quoting non-competitive prices to each other’s customers or refusing to accept new business. The cooperative agreements were “market allocation conspiracies” and price-fixing agreements that violate Illinois’ Antitrust Act, depriving businesses and consumers of competition, according to the complaint.
The Attorney General’s office alleged that the conspiracy began in January 2003 when Crystal Clear Ice, a large ice manufacturer and distributor in the Chicago area sold its business to Home City Ice. Home City split those customers with its remaining competitors in the Chicago area and met with them to discuss how they were going to divide the Crystal Clear Ice customers among themselves. From there a conspiracy ensued, allocating customers based on geographic location and yearly sales revenue.
In addition, in order to facilitate the non-compete agreement, the conspirators agreed that they would not solicit or take each other’s customers and that violations of this agreement would require a compensation or trade from the other party. Competitors also tried to discourage customers from switching suppliers by notifying competitors of customer inquiries, by quoting those customers non-competitive prices to discourage them from switching or by telling the customer that they were not accepting any new business at all.
The defendants communicated by phone, e-mail, fax, letter and in person to monitor and continue the illegal non-compete agreement.
Attorney General Madigan’s Antitrust Bureau Senior Assistant Attorney General Blake Harrop is handling the cases along with Assistant Attorney General Jamie Manning.