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Brussels, 30th March 2007

Competition: Commission confirms sending Statement of Objections in alleged cartel in bathrooms fittings and fixtures sector

The European Commission can confirm that it has sent a Statement of Objections to companies active in the bathroom fittings and fixtures sector, in six Member States: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Based on the Commission's preliminary findings, the Statement of Objections alleges that these companies participated in anti-competitive behaviour in violation of EC Treaty rules that outlaw restrictive business practices (Article 81).

The products affected by the alleged cartel include ceramic sanitary ware, taps & fittings and shower enclosures.

Surprise inspections were carried out by the Commission in November 2004 at the premises of bathroom fittings and fixtures manufacturers in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands (see MEMO/04/256).

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 companies' 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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