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Dutch Court Settles Anti-Competition Case

Published October 5, 2011

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (BRAIN)—The Dutch government has ordered Accell Group, Gazelle and Giant to pay a total of more than 19 million euros ($25 million) in fines stemming from a 2000 anti-competition case.

The Netherlands Court of Appeal for Trade & Industry handed down its final fines to the three companies this week for breaching competition rules in the summer of 2000. The court upheld a 2002 finding by the Dutch competition authority NMa saying that the manufacturers exchanged information about the effects of currency fluctuations on the cost of bicycle parts, which indicated that cost increases would be passed on. That violated price fixing laws because it could have influenced market behavior.

The court ordered Gazelle to pay 10.1 million euros ($13.5 million), down from its initial 12.9 million euro ($17.2 million) fine issued in 2002, and Giant Europe was fined 2.05 million euros ($2.73 million), short of the 3.9 million euros ($5.2 million) the court initially charged.

The Accell Group was granted the largest reduction in the appeal process, with its fine dropping from 12.8 million euros ($17.1 million) to 6.9 million ($9.2 million) based on a decision that the misconduct bore no impact on the market, the company said in a press release.

While Accell Group is pleased that its fined was nearly halved, it had hoped the court would have reversed the ruling on the violation.

“We remain convinced that we did not breach any rules more than 10 years ago, but apparently the NMa has managed to present the facts in such a way that the judges have a different opinion,” Accell Group CEO René Takens said in a prepared statement. “There were no pricing agreements made back then and both the NMa and the CBb recognize that the supposed violation has not affected the market, but nevertheless consider that general comments concerning passing on cost increases in the sidelines of a regular meeting should be seen as a breach of competition rules.”

Takens said the ruling has no impact on Accell Group’s business operations and the financial impact is limited. Accell Group already made a provision of 4.6 million euros for the case in 2007.

The three companies make up the majority of the Dutch market.

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