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Brussels, 23rd March 2009

Antitrust: Commission confirms sending Statement of Objections to alleged participants in heat stabilisers cartel

The European Commission can confirm that it has recently sent (in March 2009) a Statement of Objections to a number of companies active in the heat stabilisers sector, concerning their alleged participation in a cartel in violation of EU rules on restrictive business practices (Article 81 of the EC Treaty and Article 53 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area). Heat stabilisers – in solid or liquid form – are added to PVC products in order to improve their thermal resistance, plasticity, rigidity, transparency and protect them from discolouring.

The Statement of Objections concerns two categories of heat stabilisers: tin stabilisers, and epoxidised soybean oil (“ESBO”)/ esters. They are used in packaging, food packaging, credit cards, bottles, coatings, flooring, artificial leather, plastic wallpaper, and other plastic products for everyday use.

Procedural background

A Statement of Objections is a formal step in Commission antitrust investigations in which the Commission informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them. The addressee of a Statement of Objections can reply in writing to the Statement of Objections, setting out all facts known to it which are relevant to its defence against the objections raised by the Commission. The party may also request an oral hearing to present its comments on the case.

The Commission may then take a decision on whether the conduct addressed in the Statement of Objections is compatible or not with the EC Treaty's antitrust rules. Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the procedure.

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