European Union competition authorities have carried out raids at the offices of major electrical equipment manufacturers as part of an investigation into the market for flexible alternating current transformer systems (FACTs).
The European Commission says that it “has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices”. Both ABB and Siemens are thought to be under investigation.
The raids were carried out in late January and the European Commission has stressed that the surprise inspections are a preliminary step in the investigation process. “The fact that the European Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself,” it said in a statement.
Late last year the Commission closed an investigation into a cartel operated by seven power transformer manufacturers, levying multi-million Euro fines on the companies involved. Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has promised to come down hard on companies involved in cartels and anti-competitive practices.
In October the Commission imposed fines totalling EUR67.6 million on ABB, Areva T&D, Alstom, Fuji Electrics, Hitachi and Toshiba for their part in the transformer cartel. Siemens escaped a fine because it brought the existence of the cartel to the attention of the Commission, while ABB’s fine was increased by 50 per cent because of its participation in other cartels.