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Cartels “Rip-off” Heads a Week’s Agenda

  • February 23rd, 2007
  • Posted by EUA Editor

tgv-resize-200.jpgTrust busters; fast trains; getting older; more product-names for export trade,
and a big book of statistics – another day at the office in the EU.

TRUST BUSTERS HIT THE GOING-UP-AND-COMING-DOWN TRADE

Aggressive regulatory action by the European Commission, mostly under its strict competition policy, has continued with the announcement this week (21.2.07) of huge fines against leading suppliers of elevators and escalators in large buildings.

A statement read: ‘The European Commission has fined the Otis, KONE, Schindler and ThyssenKrupp groups €992-million (A$1.648-billion) for operating cartels for the installation and maintenance of lifts and escalators …. in clear violation of EC Treaty rules that outlaw restrictive business practices (Article 81). The decision names 17 subsidiaries of the above groups, together with Mitsubishi Elevator Europe B.V. which participated in (a) Dutch cartel. 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 9 days …

‘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.”

An EC spokesperson said problems would continue as sales by the companies were usually accompanied by maintenance contracts; customers might now resort to legal action to try to force a reduction in costs; the companies forming the cartel had perpetrated a “rip-off” against citizens, companies and real property developers on a grand scale.

TGV DOES IT AGAIN

The French fast train, the train de grande vitesse, has sped up to 553 kph, with two locomotives and three cars equipped for the special run, according to media reports in France – breaking a previous rail speed record set by itself.

NOT QUITE CHABLIS, OR CHAMPAGNE, OR JACOB’S CREEK

Another twenty-eight jealously-guarded place names for agricultural products have been placed on the protected list under European legislation. The regulations names for protected origins (French acronym AOP) and protected geographical identifiers (IGP). In the respective product categories, only products from the designated regions will be able to use the names in question, within the European Union – with support for the brands also in market relations outside. The new group make up a fairly obscure collection, e.g. Nimes olive oil from France, or Corsican clementines, and some under strictly vernacular labels, like Portugal’s Azietonas de Conserva de Elvas e Campo Maior. The full list has some 750 well-guarded, celebrated, or rather less fought-over designations.

THIRD-AGE INCOMES

An EU report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion for 2007 has delivered projections on the quality of life, including poverty figures, indicating that in the EU up to 2006, 16% of citizens were at risk of living in poverty – defined as 60% of their country’s median income or less. An assessment of retirement incomes for an ageing demographic shows a dramatic shift from 2005 to 2050: Statutory pensions have been reduced as a percentage of incomes, and incomes from additional contributions have grown (from appx. 11% to 16% of the total), while a new category, income from working for at least two years longer than statutory retirement times, has entered the calculation, accounting for appx. 7% of third age incomes by 2050.

DOOMESDAY BOOK MOVE OVER

Traditions of transparency and numbers crunching go well together in the EU, where “Europe in Figures”, the Eurostat yearbook for 2006-7, has just come out. It is extensive; the print version with CD-ROM enclosed weighs in at 0.8 kg. The contents are similarly handy and significant, spotlighting energy issues this time, with thirteen other sections taking in population, the economy, international trade, science and technology, agriculture, and a chapter labeled “linking statistics to European policies”. It is available through Eurostat Media Support, [email protected]

Reference:

Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion, European Commission (DG Communication), Brussels, 19.2.07; MEMO/07/66

Joint Employment Report 2006, European Commission (DG Communication), Brussels, 19.2.07; MEMO/07/65

Europe in Figures: Eurostat yearbook 2006-7, EC / Eurostat Statistical Books, Brussels, 2007.

Picture: Promotional image TGV; French railways (SNCF)

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