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Brussels, 4th May 2006

Competition: European Commission confirms issuing a Statement of Objections against alleged participants in a cartel for Gas Insulated Switchgear

The European Commission can confirm that it has recently sent a Statement of Objections to a number of undertakings regarding their alleged role in a cartel for Gas Insulated Switchgear.

The SO alleges that the undertakings concerned fixed the prices of Gas Insulated Switchgear and allocated contracts between them, thereby restricting competition in the EEA market in violation of EC Treaty rules outlawing restrictive business practices (Article 81).

Gas Insulated Switchgear is expensive heavy electrical equipment used to control the energy flow in electricity grids and constitutes a major component of turnkey power substations. Gas Insulated Switchgear is sold to clients such as (public) utility companies both as a distinct product and as part of turnkey power substations.

The preliminary conclusions outlined in the Statement of Objections are based on information supplied under the Commission’s Leniency Notice (see IP/02/247 and MEMO/02/23), the results of inspections carried out on 11th and 12th May 2004 (see MEMO/04/111) and the Commission’s subsequent investigation.

Procedural background

Statements of Objections are a formal step in European antitrust investigations. After receiving such statements, companies have two months to defend themselves in writing. They can also ask the Commission to hear their case at an oral hearing which usually takes place about one month after the written reply has been received. Only after having heard the company's defence can the Commission take a final decision, which may be accompanied by fines of up to ten per cent of a company’s worldwide annual turnover.

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