The European Commission has accused British materials firm BPB of price fixing, along with three other European companies.
Knauf of Germany, Lafarge of France and Gyproc Benelux have also been accused after a two-and-a-half-year investigation.

Slough-based BPB this week received a "statement of objections" from the European Commission concerning its alleged infringement of article 81 of the Treaty of Rome. The article aims to safeguard competition within the common market.

The objections, the details of which are confidential, have been issued following the commission's investigation into the European plaster industry, launched in November 1998.

The companies will be given two to three months to respond to the accusations, but BPB said it was unlikely that the commission would reach any decision this year.

A BPB spokesperson said: "In the case of the cement industry, the commission took almost seven years to resolve similar investigations." The spokesperson said BPB refused to comment in detail about the allegations but said the company intended to co-operate in all respects with the commission's inquiries.

The probe, started in December 1998, was expected to last up to four years.