Commission Cracks Down On Cartels

In the last six weeks of last year, the EC Commission imposed fines for price fixing and market sharing cartels in seven different cases. In five of these cases, the fines are amongst the ten highest ever imposed by the Commission for cartel activity.

The message is clear: companies must by now be fully aware of the risks they are taking should they be tempted to collude. The effective investigation and punishment of hardcore cartels is one of the Commission's key enforcement priorities, and one of the cornerstones in its drive to modernise competition law.

The recent cases also demonstrate the effect of the Commission's Leniency Notice: in all seven cases companies co-operated with the Commission and three companies received full immunity for informing the Commission about the cartel and providingd ecisive evidence. A revised version of the Leniency Notice, expected to be adopted over the next few months, will increase transparency and certainty of the conditions on which any reduction of fines is to be granted, thereby further encouraging participants in cartels to blow the whistle.

20 December 2001

Commission fines ten companies in carbonless paper cartel

Ä 313.7 million

11 December 2001

Commission fines six companies in zinc phosphate cartel

Ä 11.95 million

11 December 2001

Commission fines five German banks for fixing the price for exchange of euro-zone currencies

Ä 100.8 million

5 December 2001

Commission fines five companies in citric acid cartel

Ä 135.22 million

5 December 2001

Commission fines Luxembourg brewers in market sharing cartel

Ä 448,000

5 December 2001

Commission fines brewers in market sharing and price fixing cartels on the Belgian market

Ä 91.655 million

21 November 2001

Commission imposes fines in vitaminc artels

Ä 855.22 million

The Commission launched an investigation in the carbonless paper industry after one of the participants, Sappi, invoking the Leniency Notice, informed the Commission of the agreement. The Commission granted Sappi full immunity from fines as the company supplied information on the cartel before any investigation had started, and cooperated continuously and fully throughout the course of the investigation.

In the zinc phosphate cartel, the fines, although fairly small, nevertheless represent a significant percentage of the turnover of the companies concerned. Commissioner Monti made it clear that SMEs should be under no illusion thatb ecause of their size they will be granted preferential...

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