EU Raids EdF Offices in Monopoly Abuse Probe

March 11, 2009 - BRUSSELS (The Associated Press) - European Union regulators said Wednesday they have raided the offices
of Europe's largest electricity supplier, Electricite de France SA,
because they suspect it of monopoly abuse.
The European Commission said the "suspected illegal conduct may
include actions to raise prices on the French wholesale electricity market."
It said the unannounced raids on Tuesday and Wednesday - where
officials visit businesses to search for evidence and seize
documents - were
a preliminary step in the investigation, which could eventually lead to
fines of up to 10 percent of a company's yearly global turnover.
EdF told the Associated Press that it was fully cooperating
 with the EU regulators who had come to its Paris headquarters.
On Tuesday, the EU executive had said it was widening a
separate probe into French electricity prices, saying "artificially low" prices for
energy-hungry companies could give those businesses an unfair
advantage over rivals elsewhere in Europe.
In an effort to soothe EU antitrust concerns, EdF last year
agreed to amend contracts with some 60 key corporate users, including the
world's largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal SA; aluminum producer Alcan Corp.;
paper mill UPM-Kymmene Corp. and chemical companies Rhodia, Arkema and
EU regulators claim that French and Belgian industrial customers have
little or no real choice when it comes to buying electricity. Some 30
percent get only one offer to buy power, and at least half get only
three or fewer companies to tender - the lowest number of all EU nations.
Antitrust officials repeatedly have criticized the control that
former state-owned energy companies have over the market in some European
countries. Under threat of heavy fines, E.On AG and Vattenfall have agreed to sell off some of their German power network to soothe EU concerns.

The French state owns 84.8 percent of EdF. It generates most of its
electricity from nuclear power stations and hydroelectric plants.