The European Commission has issued fines totalling 173 million euros to 24 companies for their part in a cartel.They worked together fixing prices for heat stabilising chemicals which are used to make PVC products more rigid and thermally resistant; that is things like plastic bottles, packaging for food, coatings and even credit cards. Swiss group Ciba, which is part of BASF, was hit with the biggest fine over 63 million euros for its part in two separate cartels . EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “They fixed prices, they allocated markets between themselves, they shared customers and they exchanged commercially sensitive information.” The Dutch group Akzo was fined 40.6 million euros. France’s Elf Aquitaine has to pay 28.6 million euros. Italian, British, Australian and other Dutch firms were also fined. A US company, Chemtura, had its fine cancelled for bringing the cartel issue to the Commission’s attention.