German cartel office snuffs out fire-engine scheme

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Germany's competition watchdog said on Wednesday that it has fined a unit of Italian truckmaker Iveco in connection with a scheme to fix the prices of firetrucks with extension ladder rigs.

Iveco Magirus Brandschutztechnik was ordered to pay 17.5 million euros ($25.3 million) for violating regulations on public tenders by agreeing to share orders with rival Metz Aerial, a unit of the Austrian group Rosenbauer.

In Germany, Iveco and Rosenbauer "have between them a market share of almost 100 percent" for firetrucks equipped with long extension ladders, the Federal Cartel Office said in a statement.

Sales directors from both companies developed a football-based code used since 2006 to discuss plans, with "practices" denoting meetings and price concessions disguised as match results, the office said.

Rosenbauer was not fined because it alerted authorities last year to the scheme, which had operated from 1998 to the end of 2007.

Iveco is also the subject of another probe focused on other types of fire engines.

Three other manufacturers have already been fined a total of 20.5 million euros in connection with that affair.

© 2011 AFP

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