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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 17:16 GMT
Record EU fine for lift 'cartel'
EU headquarters, the Berlaymont building
The EU's Berlaymont building was one site affected by the cartel
The European Union (EU) has imposed a record fine of 992m euros ($1.3bn; 666.8m) on four lift and escalator manufacturers for price-fixing.

Germany's ThyssenKrupp, US-owned Otis, Kone of Finland and Swiss firm Schindler were fined for taking part in a market-rigging cartel.

The group fixed prices, rigged bids and allocated projects in four EU countries between 1995 and 2004, the EU said.

Among the buildings affected were the European Commission headquarters.

The EU said it was outrageous the four had artificially inflated building construction and maintenance costs.

"The result of this cartel is that taxpayers, public authorities and property developers have been ripped off big time," said EU spokesman Jonathan Todd.

"These companies ensured, by rigging the bids and sharing the markets, that the prices paid both for the installation and the maintenance were way above what they would have been if there had been a competitive market."

'Lasting damage'

Among the buildings affected were the headquarters of the European Commission and the EU courts building in Luxembourg.

ThyssenKrupp - 480m euros
Otis - 225m euros
Schindler - 144m euros
Kone - 142m euros

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes added that the memory of the fine should last as long as the damage the companies had caused.

"The national management of these companies know what they were doing was wrong, but they tried to conceal their action and went ahead anyway," Ms Kroes said in a statement.

"The damage caused by this cartel will last for many years, because it covered not only the initial supply, but also the subsequent maintenance of lifts and elevators."

ThyssenKrupp was handed the biggest fine in EU history for a single firm - 480m euros - as it was a repeat offender, the EU added.


The German group said it was considering whether to appeal against the decision.

In a statement, it said it had carried out an internal investigation into the claims, which it said were a "one-time event" as it had uncovered "no systematic wrongdoing" at its lifts unit.

However, it did add that the fine would affect its bottom line for the current financial year.

Otis, owned by US group United Technologies, was fined 225m euros for its part in the cartel.

Its US owner said it would be appealing against the ruling, adding it had co-operated fully with the EU's investigations. Nine Otis workers have since been identified and dismissed for breaking the company's code of ethics.

Schindler added it was "very surprised" by the size of its 144m euro fine. Kone was fined 142m euros.

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