The European Commission has fined 11 producers of gas insulated switchgear more than EUR 750 million for having allegedly rigged bids for procurement contracts, fixed prices, allocated projects to each other, shared markets and exchanged commercially important and confidential information. According to the Commission, the cartel operated for more than 16 years, beginning in 1988, and was governed by a formal written agreement. The investigation started with surprise inspections in May 2004, which were triggered by an application for immunity lodged by ABB Swiss Group under the EU leniency regime. The fine is the largest fine ever imposed by the European Commission on a single cartel.