Sue price-fixers more, advises EU

24th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

European firms and individuals should sue more companies which are found guilty of fixing prices more often, says EU body.

24 June 2008

BRUSSELS - European firms and individuals should sue more companies which are found guilty of fixing prices more often, the European Union's executive body said Tuesday.

The European Commission is "leading by example" by suing four lift manufacturers for fixing installation and maintenance prices, and it is "doing its utmost to encourage and facilitate" similar actions by other cartel victims, EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said.

The reasons are that "however high the fines we impose on companies that are guilty of participating in a cartel, that does not actually help the victims ... (and) it acts as an additional deterrent on companies that may be tempted," Kroes' spokesman said.

In February 2007, the commission fined lift makers Schindler, Otis, KONE and ThyssenKrupp EUR 992 million for fixing prices for installing and maintaining lifts and escalators in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands over nine years.

The companies did not deny that they had run a cartel, and they paid the fine, although they are challenging the exact penalties imposed in the European Court, EU officials said.

But on Tuesday the commission, acting as a civil plaintiff, filed a claim for damages with the Brussels business tribunal, since it had had a contract with the four companies to maintain the lifts and escalators in EU buildings in Brussels and Luxembourg.

The contract was worth EUR 19 million. While legal experts have not yet calculated by how much the commission was over-charged, Kroes' spokesman pointed out that the average price rise caused by a cartel is 20-30 percent, and can go as high as 50 percent.

[dpa / Expatica]

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