Several major manufacturers of automotive-refinish coatings are the target of a lawsuit alleging price fixing for refinish paints. The suit was filed recently by a group of auto-body shops in California against DuPont Co., The Sherwin-Williams Co., BASF, PPG Industries Inc., and Akzo Nobel.

The companies were identified early last year in a price-fixing inquiry launched by the U.S. Department of Justice, but no further action or conclusions have been announced as a result of that inquiry. The California lawsuit is reported to be one of several such legal actions filed against the auto-refinish paint makers. Industry sources said several lawsuits have been consolidated into a single proceeding in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

A spokesman for Sherwin-Williams said the company denies the allegations, adding that "we think the suits are without merit." The spokesman said Sherwin-Williams has cooperated fully with the Justice Department inquiry, and is unaware of any conclusions resulting from the inquiry. "We deny the allegations, and we think the suits are without merit," he said.

John Behan, assistant general counsel for Akzo Nobel Inc., said the company disputes any allegations of price fixing. "We deny it vigorously and are defending it vigorously," he said.

PPG issued a statement saying it "has uncovered no facts that would support a claim that any PPG personnel were involved in any such activity. It is the policy of PPG Industries Inc. to comply fully with the antitrust laws."

The other companies have also said they are cooperating with the Justice Department inquiry, but there was no additional comment on the lawsuits.