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The European Commission announced on 18 January 2012 that it had opened formal antitrust proceedings to investigate whether SAUR, Suez Environnement/Lyonnaise des Eaux, Veolia and their trade association, Fédération Professionnelle des Entreprises de l'Eau, have coordinated their behaviour in markets for water and waste water services in France, in particular through the fixing of prices charged to final consumers contrary to Art 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The opening of proceedings means that the Commission will treat the case as a matter of priority.
The investigation follows unannounced inspections at the premises of several French companies in the water sector in April 2010. Suez Environnement and its subsidiary, Lyonnaise des Eaux, have been fined €8m for breaking a seal affixed by the Commission during those inspections.
Interestingly, the Commission's action follows a similar investigation of energy companies in relation to unlawful agreements under Art 101 TFEU which resulted, in July 2009, in the imposition of a fine totalling over €553bn on each of E.ON and GDF Suez AG for market-sharing in the French and German gas markets.