Glassy cartel?

This week, European Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several European manufacturers of flat and car glass.

The Commission says that it has reason to believe that the manufacturers concerned, who are based in Belgium, France, Germany, the UK, Sweden and Italy, may have coordinated price-increases and agreed on the introduction of a so called “energy surcharge” in the area of flat glass.

The Commission named no names, but the UK’s Guardian newspaper said that UK-based Pilkington, France’s St Gobain and Belgium-based Glaverbel were visited.

As regards car glass, the Commission has information indicating that car glass producers may have allocated customers and agreed on supply quotas and prices.

Flat glass is used principally for the manufacturing of glass products used by the building sector and in a processed form by the automotive industry. Car glass is used by motor vehicle manufacturers in the production of new cars.

The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities. In two Member States, the national competition authorities carried out the inspections on behalf of the Commission. Surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected cartels.

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.