EU fines 17 steel producers 636 million dollars for price fixing

07:51, July 01, 2010      

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The European Commission on Thursday fined 17 prestressing steel producers, including the world's largest one ArcelorMittal, a total of 518 million euros ( 636 million U.S. dollars) for operating a cartel to fix prices.

"It is amazing how such a significant number of companies abused nearly the entire European construction market for such a long time and for such a vital product. This was almost as if they were acting in a planned economy," Joaquin Almunia, commission vice president in charge of competition, said in a statement.

The commission investigation found that the 17 companies operated a price-fixing and market-sharing cartel between January 1984 and September 2002 in all the countries that then formed the European Union (EU) except Britain, Ireland and Greece. It also affected Norway. The cartel stopped in 2002.

During 18 years, the companies fixed individual quotas and prices, allocated clients and exchanged sensitive commercial information. In addition, they monitored price, client and quota arrangements through a system of national coordinators and bilateral contacts.

The first pan-European cartel meetings were held in Zurich, Switzerland, hence the "Club Zurich" name it was initially referred to. Later it became "Club Europe."

The companies involved usually met in the margin of official trade meetings in hotels all over Europe. The commission said it has evidence of over 550 cartel meetings.

ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steel producer, had to pay more than half of the fines.

"The commission will have no sympathy for cartelists. Recidivists will be fined more," Almunia said.

This is the fourth cartel decision since the beginning of February bringing the total amount of antitrust fines imposed so far in 2010 to 1,493 million euros (1,832 million U.S. dollars).

Prestressing steel comprises long, curled steel wires used with concrete in construction sites to make foundations, balconies or bridges.

Source: Xinhua


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