Austrian regulators are probing elevator and escalator makers, including Schindler Holding AG, for operating a possible price-fixing cartel starting in the 1980s.
The Vienna-based Austrian antitrust authority on January 30 asked a competition court to fine some of the country's „leading companies,” the regulator said in a statement on its Web site. „We got the accusations and they're asking for a fine,” Riccardo Biffi, a Schindler spokesman, said yesterday in a telephone interview. „We have to check it and respond to the authority.” The Austrian investigation follows a European Union probe. The EU alleges a price-fixing cartel took place in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands between 1998 and 2004. In October 2005, the EU charged United Technologies Corp.'s Otis unit, the world's largest elevator company, Schindler, ThyssenKrupp AG and Kone Oyj with operating a cartel. The four companies control about 75% of the global elevator and escalator market, which is worth €30 billion ($39 billion) in annual sales, Christian Obst, an analyst at HVB in Munich, said in November. Thyssenkrupp isn't „affected” by the Austrian probe, the company said in a faxed statement yesterday. Minna Mars, a spokeswoman for Kone, and Gabriele Stoik, a spokeswoman for Otis, had no comment. The Austrian regulators were tipped off by two unidentified companies applying for leniency under Austrian competition law. „Such agreements are a serious infringement of European and Austrian antitrust law,” the authority said in the statement. (Bloomberg)