The European Commission has issued formal cartel charges against a number of escalator and elevator companies, including Switzerland's Schindler concern.
Schindler, which is based near Lucerne in central Switzerland, has confirmed receiving a statement of objections from Brussels.
This document alleges that the companies infringed an article of European Union competition law prohibiting concerted behaviour or agreements among companies that have an anti-competitive effect.
The Commission added that the alleged activity was limited to Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and covered the period 1998-2004.
After receiving statements of objections, the companies involved have two months to answer the charges in writing.
A cartel fine imposed by the Commission can amount to up to ten per cent of a group's global annual turnover, although smaller fines are normally agreed.
Schindler said that it had been cooperating with the Commission since the beginning of the investigation in January last year in a statement from its headquarters at Ebikon.
It added that no pan-European collusions had been identified.
Schindler would now "carefully analyze" the objections and then reply to Brussels.
The statement stressed that anti-competitive collusions were clearly forbidden in the Schindler group.
They violated the corporate values formulated in 1989 and a code of conduct that came into force in 1996.
But it admitted that isolated infringements had occurred in a small number of EU countries in the past.
Schindler reported at the end of January last year that the Commission had searched the offices of the European Elevator Association and several of its member companies, including Schindler's subsidiary in Belgium.
Third party allegations
The company said that, according to the Commission, the search was done based on allegations from third parties claiming that the companies in question colluded in the European elevator and escalator market and did not supply competitors with spare parts.
The other firms cited were Otis, Germany's ThyssenKrupp and Finland's Kone.
Schindler commented at the time that it considered the search "unjustified" and categorically rejected any accusation of participating in illegal arrangements or practices.
swissinfo with agencies
Schindler is the number two in the elevator and escalator industry.
Its elevators and escalators move more than 700 million people every day.
Schindler is present in all continents and was the first western company to enter an industrial joint venture in China in 1980.
The Schindler group made a net profit of SFr308 million ($238.5 million) in 2004, up by 67.4% on the 2003 figure of SFr184 million.