European Commission accused of using biased data in solar dumping case

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The European Commission (EC) has been accused of using biased information from Europressedienst, the German-based market and media consultancy that provided statistics for the EU/China dumping dispute.

The Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE), which has campaigned against anti-dumping duties against the Chinese, sent a letter to the EC questioning the use of information from Europressedienst to settle the dumping allegations.

The dispute was supposedly settled on Saturday with a reported minimum import price for Chinese solar panels of €0.56 per Watt set.

A spokesman for AFASE told PV-Tech it suspected Europressedienst “clearly has a relationship” with claimants SolarWorld and EU ProSun, causing a “conflict of interest”.

AFASE said using Europressedienst, “an unknown service provider close to the complainant”, is “not a satisfactory response”.

The exaggeration or provision of incorrect figures could have “severe effects on installers”, AFASE said, as the European market would not have been accurately portrayed.

AFASE said it was unsure of whether the EC asked Europressedienst to supply statistics or if ProSun volunteered figures from Europressedienst.

It was also sceptical of how the statistics were obtained, questioning Europressedienst’s sources, workforce capabilities and research methods.

A spokeswoman for the EC denied media reports that it was conducting an investigation of Europressedienst and refuted AFASE’s claims. “Distorted findings are not possible; all the information is collected by the EC,” the spokeswoman said.

The commission told PV-Tech that no data could have a decisive effect on the end decision, and that the EC looked at individual companies itself. Europressedienst provided macroeconomic data which could not be used definitively, the spokeswoman said.

John Clancy, European trade spokesman, added: “Company specific figures have shown clear dumping, clear injury and clear undercutting leading to the unsustainable price level in the EU but also for the Chinese exporters. Hence, the case does not stand or fall with the figures provided by Europressedienst.”

The EC said it used publicly available information such as Bloomburg business reports, which it said it believed to be accurate and verified. The EC also said that all parties had access to the information used and the methodology, with comment from all parties allowed as the EC was “playing it very transparent”.

The EC does on-the-spot visits to verify data from service providers as part of “normal” proceedings, and claims the verifications were announced at the beginning of the dispute.

The EC also said AFASE had worked with EU ProSun, and that AFASE data had been used and considered partial.

The EC said Europressedienst provided statistics for “macro indicators” in sales volumes (including imports) and market shares, employment and productivity, EU production, production capacity and capacity utilisation.

Europressedienst supplied data for the EC when there were gaps in industry figures in various components such as consumption, imports, EU production and capacity, market shares, employment and productivity.

The EC wrote to Europressedienst on 2 July to schedule an “on-the-spot verification” for 15-16 July to check the macroeconomic statistics provided on the 23 April, the methodology submitted on 6 May, and any other relevant information, according to Reuters.

Clancy said it was “standard practice for the EC to continue company visits, which also includes visits to the consultants that are part of the investigation”.

 “At the moment when the contract was concluded between the European Commission and Europressedienst at the very beginning of the investigation, Europressedienst was informed by the commission that such a standard check could be carried out,” he said.

“So to be clear: the Commission is not carrying out an ‘inquiry’ into Europressedienst, it simply carried out a verification visit, as it does with other companies and as it is normal practice in anti-dumping investigations.”

PV-Tech contacted Europressedienst, but the company said in an email that it could not comment on an ongoing contract.

EU ProSun was unavailable at the time of publication. Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun and vice president of SolarWorld, told Reuters Europressedienst data was used in the initial complaint about dumping to the EC, but denied a union with Europressidienst to exaggerate EU figures of solar manufacturing capacity.

Clancy said: “The results of the cross-checking did not raise any concerns as to the reliability of the data received as these were found to be in the same trends with other publicly available data.”

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