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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
food + drinkClue: You'll either love them or you'll hate them
News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
News
peopleWarning - contains a lot of swearing
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

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project