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On February 21, 2018, the European Commission (EC) announced three settlement decisions regarding cartels, fining four maritime car carriers €395 million, two suppliers of spark plugs €76 million, and two suppliers of braking systems €75 million.

The EC started investigations when it received several leniency requests from some of the cartels’ participants, who benefited from an exemption on the payment of the fines. The other companies investigated were given reductions in the fine amounts for cooperating in the procedure and for acknowledging their participation in the cartels through the settlement procedure.

 

Maritime transport of vehicles

The first decision refers to a cartel in the market for the maritime transport of vehicles and trucks on various routes between Europe and other continents; the cartel went on for at least six years, between 2006 and 2012, and at least five companies participated in the cartel. The managers of the companies participating in the cartel would hold regular meetings and were in contact over the phone on a regular basis, coordinating prices, allocating customers and exchanging commercially sensitive information about the charges added to prices to offset currency or oil prices fluctuations. During the investigation, the EC cooperated with several authorities worldwide, including those in Australia, Japan, Canada and the US.

 

Spark plugs

In a second decision, the EC sanctioned a cartel involving supplies of spark plugs to car manufacturers in the European Economic Area (EEA) that went on for 11 years and was aimed at avoiding competition by respecting each other’s traditional customers and maintaining the existing status quo in the spark plugs market. The companies exchanged commercially sensible information and in some cases agreed on the prices to be quoted to certain customers and the share of supplies to specific customers. This coordination took place through bilateral contacts between the companies involved in the anticompetitive behavior.

This decision and other similar decisions are part of a series of actions being taken by the European authorities in the automotive components sector that have revealed the existence of 10 cartels, leading to fines of about €6 billion in total. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy said that the EC “would continue to actively supervise the sector while it continues to detect companies that try to increase their profits by implementing anticompetitive practices,” and that “there are still investigations pending.”

Thanks to the settlement procedure (to which we already referred to here and here), companies that acknowledge their involvement in the anticompetitive behavior will receive a 10% reduction on the fine amount.

Read the EC’s press release here.

 

Author: Alexandre Picón

This post is also available in: Español

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