Newsprint price probe launched

Companies at 40 locations in Britain and across Europe have been raided by European Union investigators trying to establish whether a cartel exists following the recent jump in newsprint prices.

The investigation was announced yesterday by the European Commission's competition commissioner, Karel Van Miert. Investigators, mainly from national authorities rather than the Commission, were asked to gather information about alleged price-rigging. Newsprint prices have soared by 20 per cent this year.

The inquiries concern companies in seven EU countries - Britain, Sweden, Finland, France, Austria, Germany and Italy.

Mr Van Miert was secretive about the investigation because, he said, it had only just begun and he did not want to prejudge the matter.

The Commission had received complaints about prices from newspaper publishers, governments and competition authorities across Europe earlier this year. It refused to identify the source of any complaint but indicated there had been widespread disquiet in the newspaper industry.

Leading European producers of newsprint include Stone, International Paper and SCA.

Newsprint prices have soared this year to $600 a tonne, as demand from the Far East and the US led suppliers to shift products away from some steady European customers. A further increase to $675 is expected on Monday.

Newsprint suppliers say the industry is producing at capacity, and several companies have recently announced plans to open new mills in Europe, the US and Latin America. Major players in the industry have posted near- record profits on the back of increasing prices for newsprint, paper, and various packaging materials.

The UK publishing industry has become increasingly vocal about rising prices. News International in particular was hard hit by the newsprint shortage earlier this year, forcing production cuts at its national newspaper titles. Other publishers have also complained.

The effects of the price increases, particularly in Continental Europe, have been tempered by the declining US dollar, but this has not greatly helped British publishers as the pound gained little against the dollar.

If evidence of price-fixing is discovered the Commission has the power to fine the companies concerned and order them to dismantle any such arrangements.

In a separate development, the motor industry was given the go-ahead yesterday to carry on with existing sales and service practices - which make it difficult to bypass national dealer networks and have led to complaints of rigged prices and broken guarantees.

Consumer groups attacked the decision, but the European Commission said the car market required special knowhow and skills to ensure vehicles were properly maintained.

One change ordered by the Commission is that independent repairers will be entitled to technical information from manufacturers.

The Commission has been inundated with complaints - despite the single market in which consumers can theoretically buy goods in whichever country they can find the best terms.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Sport
Mario Balotelli posed for this selfie during AC Milan's 5-1 defeat to Manchester City
sport
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + ents
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Sport
sport
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

.NET Software Developer (.NET, C#, ASP.NET, front-end)

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

C# Web developer (C#,MVC,ASP.NET,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: C# Web d...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried