Brussels investigators probe alleged EU-wide breaches of competition law.

The European Commission has charged lift and escalator manufacturers Otis, Kone, Schindler and ThyssenKrupp with anti-competitive behaviour and running an international cartel from 1995 to 2004. If found guilty, the four companys, from the USA, Finland, Switzerland and Germany respectively, could be fined 10% of their annual turnovers.

The commission’s investigators have been working on the case since the beginning of last year, probing into work carried out in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg. The firms now have two months to submit their response in writing.

Schindler said it had been cooperating with the Commission since the beginning of the investigation, and that it would “carefully analyse” the allegations.

The four companies involved in the investigation control more than half the global lift and escalator market, which is worth some £21bn a year.