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Allegations of glass price fixing spark EU enquiry

A member of the European Parliament has requested an enquiry into illegal price fixing by glass bottle makers in Europe.

German MEP Werner Langen has written to the European Commission asking for an investigation into possible price fixing by the dominant glass producers – none are named in his request – as well as excessive bottle price hikes of up to 30% in 2007.

‘The fact that the three main producers have also reduced their production capacity also has aggravated circumstances,’ said Langen.

He emphasised that the hikes were having a negative impact on the wine and spirits industry and would eventually affect the consumer.

The three largest glass suppliers in Europe are Owens-Illinois, Inc., Saint Gobain and Ardagh Glass.

‘Rising prices are due to rising costs of production, particularly the high cost of energy and raw materials in the last two to three years,’ said a spokesperson from Saint Gobain.

Wine producers in France have been particularly hard hit with problems of unpredictable supply.

‘I have zero glass stock and an order for 36,000

bottles,’ said Jean-Claude Mas of Domaines Paul Mas in Montagnac, at a trade show in Montpellier in February.

Another Languedoc winemaker, David Rowledge of UK-based Alchemy Wines, said he was forced to place an order of two million bottles in 2008.

‘If not, no bottles,’ he said. Yet despite his verbal commitment, Rowledge has yet to receive the white wine bottles he has ordered.

Castel, one of France¹s biggest wine producers ­ which was advised at the start of 2008 that supply problems would continue – have said if the situation continues they will consider a move to PET. However this solution may be too expensive for most producers and would only work for wines slated for consumption within three years.

The European Commission has accepted Langen’s request, but has not yet launched an official investigation.

Written by Sophie Kevany

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