The European Commission has fined eleven groups of companies more than €750 million for participating in a cartel for gas insulated switchgear.
The total fines imposed make it the largest set of fines ever imposed on a single cartel, and the fine of €396,562,500 on Germany’s Siemens constitutes the largest ever fine that the Commission has imposed on a single company for a single cartel infringement.
The companies involved are ABB, Alstom, Areva, Fuji, Hitachi Japan AE Power Systems, Mitsubishi Electric Corp, Schneider, Siemens, Toshiba and VA Tech.
According to statement from the Commission, between 1988 and 2004, the companies rigged bids for procurement contracts, fixed prices, allocated projects to each other, shared markets and exchanged commercially important and confidential information. ABB received full immunity from fines under the Commission’s leniency programme, as it was the first company to come forward with information about the cartel. The investigation started with surprise inspections in May 2004, which were prompted by an application for immunity lodged by ABB under the 2002 Leniency Notice. The fine calculated for ABB was increased by 50% for being a repeat offender. However, with full immunity ABB benefited to the tune of €215,156,250, the fine which would otherwise have been imposed.
The Commission increased the fines by 50% for Siemens, Alstom and Areva for their leadership role as secretary of the cartel.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “The Commission has put an end to a cartel which has cheated public utility companies and consumers for more than 16 years. The case also demonstrates that the Commission can and will bring down such cartels even if the companies concerned use sophisticated technology to cover their tracks.”
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