At the end of a lengthy investigation, reportedly triggered by an individual's inquiry about different price quotations from different suppliers, five ophthalmic lens makers in Germany have been socked with €115 million in fines for participating in a price-fixing scheme. Rodenstock, Carl Zeiss Vision, Essilor, Rupp + Hubrach Optik and Hoya Lens Deutschland were named by Germany's federal antitrust agency, the Federal Cartel Office, which also cited seven individual employees and the Central Opticians' Association (ZVA).
The Bundeskartellamt said the companies worked together to simultaneously raise the prices charged to opticians, with the increased cost passed along to consumers. It said that the price-fixing scheme ?virtually paralyzed competition? in the market. The cooperation started in mid-2000, the agency's investigations found. Among other actions, each company was informing the other members of the group when it was going to raise prices. Bonuses and discounts for opticians were agreed upon among them.
Rodenstock refuted the allegations, arguing that consumers and opticians didn't suffer any losses from the companies' activities, and adding that it was instituting a system to prevent future anti-competition deals. Hoya's German subsidiary said that it planned to appeal some part of the decision. Zeiss indicated that it may appeal.
Rodenstock, Hoya, Zeiss and the ZVA all had their fines reduced for cooperating with the investigators of the Cartel Office. The ZVA has agreed to a settlement, but other fines are not final yet and can be appealed in regional court in Düsseldorf. Essilor has said that it will appeal the ruling as well as the amount of the €50 million fine set for its two subsidiaries, Essilor GmbH and Rupp + Hubrach. For the previous two years, Essilor has been setting aside provisions related to the investigation, for a total of €9.2 million.