The European Commission’s investigation into alleged cartel practices in the European power cables market has moved forward, with details of suspected violations being sent to twelve companies.

The EU’s executive body has sent a statement of objections to 12 companies that it believes may have colluded to allocate markets and customers for underground and submarine power cable projects, and fix prices in the European Economic Area.

The move follows raids carried out by the Commission at the premises of a number of power cable manufacturers in January 2009. The Commission has not named the 12 companies, although ABB has confirmed that it has received a statement of objections and says that it is co-operating with the Commission’s investigation.

The European Commission is keen to crack down on restrictive business practices in the power equipment market because of the impact that they can have on power prices.

In October 2009 the Commission found seven power transformer manufacturers guilty of running a cartel and fined them a combined €67.6 million. It also launched an investigation into anti-competitive practices in the European market for flexible alternating current transformer systems (FACTs) in February 2010.

A Statement of Objections is a formal step in Commission investigations into suspected violations of EU rules on restrictive business practices. The companies involved can examine the documents on the Commission’s investigation file, reply in writing and request an oral hearing to present their comments on the case before representatives of the Commission and national competition authorities.

If, after the parties have exercised their rights of defence, the Commission concludes that there is sufficient evidence of an infringement, it can issue a decision prohibiting the conduct under investigation and impose a fine of up to ten per cent of a company’s annual worldwide turnover.