BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- European Union regulators said Monday they would allow companies suspected of operating price-fixing cartels to seek settlements with antitrust officials that could win them a 10 percent discount on a fine.
The European Commission said it hoped to speed up such cases by reaching settlements with companies that acknowledge their involvement in a cartel and don't challenge the EU charges.
It said this new plan should not interfere with the EU's existing leniency system under which the first business to blow the whistle on a cartel can be excused from a possible fine.
Cartel confessions have flooded in within the last few years as EU officials levied massive fines against groups of companies that collaborated to increase costs for customers.
The European Commission claims its clampdown last year alone saved European consumers more than euro 13.8 billion (US$21.73 billion).
EU antitrust fines hit a bumper year in 2007, pulling in euro 3.33 billion (US$5.24 billion) that will be pooled into the European Union's budget -- which mostly pays for farm subsidies and economic aid.