MOSCOW, December 26 - RAPSI, Natalia Belova. A court will hear an appeal filed by the antimonopoly service against the overriding of its decision declaring several major coal producers guilty of price collusion in the industrial coal market, the court told the Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI/

In late 2010, the Federal Antimonopoly Service said it had uncovered price collusion among the Siberian Coal Energy Company (SUEK), Russian Coal, Stroyservice and other companies.

Antimonopoly services head Igor Artemyev said the companies had violated competition law on three occasions. The service ruled that the companies colluded to stifle competition in the coal market, fix coal prices and divide the market.

The watchdog claims SUEK, Russian Coal and Stroyservice made over 100 million rubles ($3.2 million) from selling coal at fixed prices. Meanwhile, SUEK allegedly obtained over 5 million rubles ($160,000) in illegal proceeds resulting from price collusion.

The watchdog said during the court hearing that the Interior Ministry had provided it with transcripts of conversations between company representatives detailing how they were going to engineer coal price increases.

The Interior Ministry opened a criminal case against the coal producers last January. If damages amounting to over 3 million rubles ($96,000) are proved, the convicts could face up to six years in prison.