European Union regulators slapped their largest price-fixing fine ever – €992m – on five lift makers today.
The was imposed for operating cartels for the installation and maintenance of lifts and escalators in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said in Brussels that the fines were the “largest ever” for price fixing in the European Union.
“The result of this cartel is that taxpayers, public authorities and property developers have been ripped off big time,” Todd said.
“The companies ensured that by rigging the bids and sharing the markets that the prices paid for the installation and the maintenance were way above what they would have been if there had been a competitive market.”
German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp, Finland’s Kone and Switzerland’s Schindler Holding were fined under the decision, as was United Technologies unit Otis Elevator of the United States and subsidiaries of Japan’s Mitsubishi Elevator Europe.
ThyssenKrupp was given the largest fine, more than €479m, because the company was labelled a “repeat offender” by EU regulators, Mr Todd said.
The company said in a statement that it would review the fine and then decide whether to appeal.
Otis was fined €225m, Schindler €144m, Kone €142m, and Mitsubishi’s Dutch subsidiary was fined €1.8m.
The European Commission said the cartel had worked to rig bids for procurement contracts, fix prices and share markets between at least 1995 and 2004. The Commission said the companies “did not contest the facts” found by EU regulators, adding none of the accused requested a hearing to answer the allegations.
But Schindler said it was “very surprised at the size of the fine,” because it claimed the EU had found “no evidence of pan-European collusion among companies in the European elevator industry”. It said in a statement that it had not yet decided whether it would appeal.
Kone also said it will “examine the commission’s decision and decide on potential action.”
Today’s fine tops a €750m fine imposed last month against 10 companies for running a cartel to fix prices for heavy equipment used by power utilities, reflecting stepped-up action by EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes against price fixing.