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C 180/6 EN Official Journal of the European Union 22.7.

2005

Final report of the Hearing Officer in Case COMP/37.533 — Choline chloride


(pursuant to Article 15 of Commission Decision 2001/462/EC, ECSC of 23 May 2001 on the terms
of reference of Hearing Officers in certain competition proceedings — OJ L 162, 19.6.2001, p. 21)

(2005/C 180/06)

The draft decision in the abovementioned case gives rise to the following observations:

The Commission's investigation of a potential infringement of Article 81(1) of the EC Treaty and Article
53(1) of the EEA Treaty in the chorine chloride industry was initiated following an application for leniency
submitted further to the Commission's 1996 Notice on Non-imposition or reduction of Fines in Cartel
Cases (‘Leniency Notice’).

A Statement of Objections (‘SO’) was sent on 23 May 2003 to fourteen parties considered on a preliminary
basis to have participated in the cartel, namely:

— Akzo Nobel N.V; Akzo Nobel Nederland B.V; Akzo Nobel Chemicals International B.V; Akzo Nobel
Chemicals B.V; Akzo Nobel Functional Chemicals B.V; Akzo Nobel Chemicals SpA. (‘Akzo Nobel’)

— BASF A.G. (‘BASF’)

— Bioproducts Incorporated (‘Bioproducts’)

— Chinook Group Limited; Chinook Group Inc; Chinook Group Limited Partnership. (‘Chinook’)

— DuCoa, L.P. (‘DuCoa’)

— UCB S.A. (‘UCB’)

— Ertisa S.A. (‘Ertisa’)

Access to the file was provided by CD-ROM. All parties provided written observations on the SO within
the time limit provided.

All parties except for DuCoa participated in an oral hearing that took place on 16 September 2003.

During the hearing an additional document from one of the parties' replies to the SO was distributed on
the basis that it contained information in support of the Commission's objections that might be relied
upon in the final decision. The parties concerned were given the opportunity to comment on this docu-
ment. Bioproducts and Chinook also commented following the hearing on the issue of immunity from
fines.

In the course of the procedure Chinook drew the attention of the Hearing Officer to the apparent mishand-
ling of the case by the Commission services resulting from the fact that part of its file had been mislaid, in
particular documents handed over by Chinook that it claimed were relevant for the application of the
Leniency Notice. In order to redress the situation, copies of the documents concerned had been obtained
and placed in the file. Reference to the documents was included in the SO and the documents themselves
included on the CD-ROM. Therefore, this incident, whilst unfortunate, had not affected Chinook's rights to
be heard. (The original file was also eventually retrieved.)

Following the parties' replies to the SO and the oral hearing the objections set out in the SO against Ertisa
have been dropped. The same applies to Akzo Nobel Chemicals SpA. In addition, the duration of the
infringement has been reduced for Chinook and Bioproducts, as a result of which the imposition of fines is
time barred. The time bar also applies to DuCoa.
22.7.2005 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 180/7

The draft decision submitted to the Commission only contains objections in respect of which the parties
have been afforded the opportunity of making known their views.
In the light of the above, I consider that the rights of the parties to be heard have been respected in this
case.

Brussels, 2 December 2004.

Serge DURANDE