Lift cartel fined €992m

The European Commission has fined the Otis, KONE, Schindler and ThyssenKrupp groups €992m for operating cartels for the installation and maintenance of lifts and escalators. The violations are said to have taken place in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The decision names 17 subsidiaries of the companies in receipt of fines, together with Mitsubishi Elevator Europe B.V. which participated in the Dutch cartel.

According to an EC statement, lifts and escalators play a major role in modern urban life – Otis alone estimates that the equivalent of the entire world’s population travel on their lifts, escalators and moving walkways every nine days. Between at least 1995 and 2004, these companies rigged bids for procurement contracts, fixed prices and allocated projects to each other, shared markets and exchanged commercially important and confidential information.

KONE subsidiaries received full immunity from fines under the Commission’s leniency programme in respect of the cartels in Belgium and Luxembourg, as they were first to provide information about these cartels. Similarly, Otis Netherlands received full immunity in respect of the Netherlands cartel. The fines imposed on the ThyssenKrupp companies were increased by 50%, as it is a repeat offender. These are the largest ever fines imposed by the Commission for cartel violations.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: ‘It is outrageous that the construction and maintenance costs of buildings, including hospitals, have been artificially bloated by these cartels.

‘The national management of these companies knew what they were doing was wrong, but they tried to conceal their action and went ahead anyway. The damage caused by this cartel will last for many years because it covered not only the initial supply but also the subsequent maintenance of lifts and elevators.’