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Germany’s federal cartel office has imposed €124.5m in fines on four steel companies who conspired to make and supply rails to Deutsche Bahn at inflated, anti-competitive prices.
The competition authority fined a unit of ThyssenKrupp €103 million euros, a unit of Vossloh €13m and two units of Voestalpine a total of €8.5m. Voestalpine acted as a whistleblower in the case. Investigations of anti-competitive practices involving other companies are ongoing.
“The rail-track suppliers secured almost constant quotas of orders for one another from Deutsche Bahn over many years,” said Andreas Mundt, cartel office president.
The German railroad is thought to have incurred millions of euros in additional costs during the period the cartel operated between 2001 and 2008.
Gerd Becht, Deutsche Bahn board member, said that the fines made clear that DB was “systematically defrauded” for years. He added that the rail company expects full compensation from all the steel groups involved.
ThyssenKrupp said it was “taken completely by surprise by the antitrust and criminal investigations in mid-May 2011 and since then has co-operated fully with the authorities”.
The German company said investigations were still ongoing in two other product areas and it had made a provision of €30m for that event. Several managers have since left the company.
Wolfgang Eder, chief executive of Austria’s Voestalpine, said: “Had it not been for our quick and comprehensive co-operation with the cartel office, we would have had to reckon with a much higher fine.”
A large part of the anti-competitive behaviour at Vossloh occurred when its unit was under previous ownership. That owner is therefore expected to pay most of the Vossloh fine.