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EUROPEAN COMMISSION FINES A/C SUPPLIERS CARTEL

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EUROPEAN COMMISSION FINES A/C SUPPLIERS CARTEL


The European Commission has fined OE equipment suppliers Behr, Calsonic, Denso, Panasonic, Sanden and Valeo a total of EU €155 million for taking part in one or more of four cartels concerning supplies of air conditioning and engine cooling components to VMs in Europe.

Although the fine has only just been handed out, the offences date back to 2009.

All six suppliers acknowledged their involvement in the cartels and agreed to settle the case. Denso was not fined for three of the cartels as it revealed their existence to the Commission. Panasonic was not fined for one of the cartels as it revealed its existence to the Commission.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy said: “Even though air conditioning and cooling components are not something you see as products, they are very much something you feel. In this case you might also have felt it in your wallet even though temperatures would still be regulated in your car. Today’s decision underlines that we do not accept cartels that affect the European market, wherever and however they may be organised.”

 

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DENSO ESCAPE FINE IN CARTEL SCANDAL

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DENSO ESCAPE FINE IN CARTEL SCANDAL


DensoThe European Commission has imposed fines of € 137 789 000 on Melco (Mitsubishi Electric) and
Hitachi for participating in a cartel for alternators and starters in breach of European antitrust rules.

Denso was also involved in the cartel, but not fined as it revealed the existence of the price fixing to the Commission. All companies acknowledged their involvement and agreed to settle the case.

For more than five years, the three Japanese car parts manufacturers coordinated prices and allocated customers or projects with regards to OE alternators and starters. Although contacts associated with forming and running the cartel took place outside the European Economic Area (EEA), it affected VMs in the UK and mainland Europe who brought directly from the companies.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in charge of competition policy said: “Breaking cartels remains a top priority for the Commission, in particular when they affect important consumer goods, such as cars. Today’s decision sanctions three car part producers whose collusion affected component costs for a number of car manufacturers selling cars in Europe, and ultimately European consumers buying them. If European consumers are affected by a cartel, the Commission will investigate it even if the cartel meetings took place outside Europe.”

The investigation revealed that between September 2004 and February 2010 the companies met at each other’s offices and in restaurants, and were in contact over the phone on a regular basis, in order to limit competition between them. In particular the three companies:

  • Coordinated their responses to certain calls for tenders issued by car manufacturers, in particular with respect to determining the price at which they would tender and who should win the specific business;
  • Shared out certain vehicle manufacturers and projects between themselves in terms of which of the three would supply alternators and starters;
  • Exchanged commercially sensitive information such as price elements and market strategies.

This is not the first time that the Commission has ruled on a cartel inside the automotive industry. In 2014 NTN, Schaeffler, NSK and JTEKT were found to be fixing the price of wheel bearings earning the companies a record fine. Prior to this, another group of companies were found to be fixing the price of wiring harnesses while a further cartel was exposed in among suppliers of seat materials.

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