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EU fines glass cartel with almost €500 mln

The European Union regulators fined some of the world’s biggest glass manufacturers on Wednesday for fixing the prices they charged for glass merchandises

Japanese glass manufacturer Asahi, US glazier Guardian, Britain’s Pilkington and France’s Saint-Gobain were fined a combined total of €486.9 million ($723.42 million) for keeping the price of flat glass panes unfairly high between 2004 and 2005, according to a press release from the EU’s executive, the Commission. „The Commission will not tolerate companies cheating consumers and business customers by fixing prices and depriving them of the benefits of the single market,’ EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said.

The four companies held meetings in hotels and restaurants across Europe to coordinate price rises in the €1.7 billion (about $2.5 billion) European market for glass panes used in construction - a market of which they control some 80%, the press release said. But Commission officials grew suspicious of the situation after meetings with the national competition authorities in several member states, and launched surprise inspections of the four companies.

After the inspections, Asahi and its European subsidiary Glaverbel (recently renamed AGC Flat Glass Europe) decided to cooperate with Commission investigators, providing information in return for a reduced fine. As a result of its cooperation, Asahi was fined a relatively modest €65 million for its part in the cartel. Guardian was fined €148 million, Pilkington was fined €140 million and Saint-Gobain was fined €133.9 million, the Commission press release stated. It is the seventh cartel fine the Commission has imposed this year, following cases involving gas insulated switches, elevators and escalators, Dutch beer, zip fasteners, Spanish bitumen and video tapes. The seven cases received fines totaling over €3 billion. (m&