Dover, Delaware — The DuPont Co. and Honeywell International may be violating antitrust rules in their cooperative venture to supply the only automotive air-conditioning refrigerant that meets European standards for greenhouse gas emissions, regulators said Tuesday.
DuPont, based in Wilmington, Delaware, and Honeywell, based in Morristown, New Jersey, created a partnership in 2010 to develop the refrigerant after the European Union adopted new environmental standards for vehicle air conditioning in 2006.
The European Commission began an antitrust investigation in 2011 after receiving complaints that DuPont and Honeywell were preventing other companies from developing refrigerants with low "global warming potential."
On Tuesday, the commission sent a formal statement of objections to the companies, saying the panel's preliminary view is that the cooperative agreement to produce the refrigerant, known as 1234yf, may have limited its availability and technical development, in violation of EU antitrust rules.
DuPont said it has complied with European laws and plans to defend itself vigorously against the commission's allegations.
"We will fight this every step of the way, as it has no basis in law or fact," Thierry F.J. Vanlancker, president of DuPont Chemicals & Fluoroproducts, said in a prepared statement.
Honeywell issued a statement saying the commission's objections were baseless and conflict with the European Union's own laws encouraging collaboration on development.
"Honeywell is confident that our practices are consistent with the law and that the commission will conclude that we acted in full compliance with European Union competition rules," the company said.
Commission rules allow the companies to respond to the objections and to request a hearing to present their arguments. If the commission subsequently concludes that a violation has occurred, it can issue a decision prohibiting the conduct and impose a fine.