European Union antitrust inspectors joined counterparts in Japan and North America in a series of dawn raids around the world on the premises of PVC additive suppliers suspected of being part of two global price-fixing cartels.
In Europe, the European Commission inspectors, together with national officials, swooped on the offices of 14 European companies in France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom on Feb. 12. The raids were designed to uncover evidence of two illegal cartels, one involving heat stabilizers and the second, impact modifiers and processing aids, according to the EU.
It is the first time that the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, has cooperated with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Canadian Competition Bureau and the Japan Fair Trade Commission in simultaneous surprise inspections, according to the EC.
The EU declined to name or give further details of the 14 suspect companies. News reports and press releases identified some firms: Mitsubishi Rayon Co., Kureha Chemical Industry Co. Ltd., Kaneka Corp., Akzo Nobel NV and Rohm and Haas Co.
The sudden, coordinated action is the first stage in what are likely to be lengthy investigations into international cartel agreements involving market sharing and price fixing for plastics additives.
``International cooperation is a high-priority area for the European Commission in the field of anti-cartel policy. ... The great majority of cartels we deal with today are international,'' the commission said in a statement.
Heat stabilizers are added to protect resins from thermal degradation and to enhance flexibility of the PVC end product. Impact modifiers, used in rigid PVC improve the end product's resistance to physical stress, while processing aids ease PVC's converting characteristics.
The EC stressed that the raids do not automatically make the raided companies guilty of anti-competitive behavior and each company will be open to offer a defense in any following legal proceedings.