EU plans steps against vitamin cartel BRUSSELS: The European Commission said on Wednesday it was about to take legal steps against vitamin-producing companies implicated in an alleged price-fixing cartel. "Our statement of objections is ready to go," a Commission spokesman told Reuters. "It's more or less imminent and will be sent off in the next few days." He declined to give details of which firms would be sent the "statement of objections", a formal step in the Commission's investigations into alleged anti-competitive practices which normally leads to a fine. Last year, Swiss drug company Roche Holding and German chemical maker BASF AG agreed to pay record U.S. antitrust fines to settle criminal price-fixing charges. France's Rhone-Poulenc avoided criminal charges after agreeing to help U.S. investigators crack the cartel. It has since merged with Hoechst to form Aventis. Three Japanese firms, Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd, Eisai Co and Daiichi Pharmaceutical Co also agreed to plead guilty to fixing the price of vitamins sold in the United States and to pay fines. A number of companies have also been fined in Canada. Roche said in January it had set aside an undisclosed sum of money as an extraordinary item in its 1999 full-year results to cover an eventual fine from the Commission, the EU's antitrust watchdog. After a company receives a statement of objections, it has time to respond in writing to the Commission's charges and has the right to request an oral hearing to put its case. After that, there is no fixed timetable for the Commission to reach its final verdict. Under EU laws, firms found guilty of anti-competitive practices can be fined up to 10 percent of their worldwide revenues, although such a large fine has never been levied. (Reuters)
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