The European Commission has informed Pometon S.p.A. that it suspects the company of having colluded with competitors on the pricing of steel abrasives in the European Economic Area (EEA), in breach of EU antitrust rules. The sending of a statement of objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
Steel abrasives are loose steel particles used for cleaning or enhancing metal surfaces in the steel, automotive, metallurgy and petrochemical industries. They are also used for cutting hard stones such as granite and marble. The Commission has concerns that Pometon may have coordinated on a key price component of steel abrasives, the "scrap surcharge", and that this coordination with other market participants affected the whole EEA market. Moreover, the Commission takes the preliminary view that Pometon may have agreed with other participants not to compete on price with respect to individual customers. If established, such behaviours violate Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 53 of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement that prohibit anti-competitive business practices.
The Commission's investigation started with unannounced inspections in June 2010. In April 2014, the Commission settled with four companies (Ervin, Winoa, Metalltechnik Schmidt and Eisenwerk Würth) that admitted their involvement in the cartel. The total fines imposed were € 30 707 000. The investigation concerning Pometon continued under the standard cartel procedure.
A Statement of Objections is a formal step in Commission investigations into suspected violations of EU rules on restrictive business practices. The Commission informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them and the companies can examine the documents in the Commission's investigation file, reply in writing and request an oral hearing to present their comments on the case before representatives of the Commission and national competition authorities.
If, after the parties have exercised their rights of defence, the Commission concludes that there is sufficient evidence of an infringement, it can issue a decision prohibiting the conduct and impose a fine of up to 10% of a company's annual worldwide turnover.