EU price-fixing scandal hits bathroom suppliers

A number of manufacturers of bathroom equipment have been fined by the European Commission for a price fixing cartel that covered six countries and 12 years.
17 companies have been fined over €622 million (£511m). They include Ideal Standard, Grohe, Duravit, Roca, Sanitec and Villeroy & Boch, all of whom sell in the UK. However, the fines relate to deals “coordinating” sales prices in Germany, Austria, Italy, Belgium and France between 1992 and 2004 and not the UK.

The deals included fixing price increases, minimum prices, rebates, and exchanging sensitive business information and also coordinated price increases following specific events, such as increases in the prices of raw materials.

Although the largest fine €326 million (£268m) went to Ideal Standard, responsibility for paying it rests with the former owner of the American Standard Group which sold its kitchen and bath arm to the new owners in 2007.

Both Grohe and Ideal Standard had their fines reduced fine after they cooperated fully with the investigation, while Masco, parent company of brands like Hansgrohe, Bristan and Huppe, had its fine erased for being the whistle-blower.

The Commission described the firms’ practices as “very serious infringements of the EU competition rules”.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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