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Family business implicated in price fixing scandal

Family-owned ceramics manufacturer Villeroy & Boch has announced it is to appeal a decision by the European Commission to fine it for its part in an alleged price fixing cartel that has implicated other family businesses.

"The charges are unjustified in law and in fact. For these reasons Villeroy & Boch companies affected by the decision have filed appeals at the European General Court," the German-based company said in a statement.

In June, the EC announced that it intended to fine 17 bathroom equipment manufacturers more than €622 million for a 12-year price fixing cartel covering six European Union countries.

The EC claimed that the cartel was coordinated during meetings of 13 national trade associations and consisted of fixing price increases, minimum prices, rebates and exchanging sensitive business information.

Family-owned German fittings manufacturer Dornbracht was fined €12.5 million, but its managing director told campdenFB.com that there were inconsistencies in the EC's argument.

"The EU explanatory statement has been legally reviewed by our lawyers and the results are different from those of the EC," said Andreas Dornbacht, adding that he was unable to give any further details because of legal restrictions.

Spain-based Roca, a manufacturer of bathroom products that won the 2008 IMD-LODH Family Business Award, was fined €38.7 million.

Other companies include Artweger, a family-owned Austrian manufacturer of bath products, which was fined nearly €3 million, and Italy-based taps and fittings manufacturer Cisal, which was bought last year by the Huber family, owners of Huber Spa, which was fined €1.2 million.

Both declined to give a statement when contacted by campdenFB.com.

A spokeswoman for the EC said a final decision on the ruling was still to be made, but gave no timescale.

Picture: Wendelin von Boch, chairmanship of the supervisory
board at Villeroy & Boch

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