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Brussels fines six car suppliers EUR 155m over cartels

09 March 2017, 12:51 CET
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Brussels fines six car suppliers EUR 155m over cartels

Margrethe Vestager - Photo © European Union 2017

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission fined six car suppliers a total of EUR 155m Wednesday for taking part in cartels supplying air conditioning and engine cooling components to manufacturers in Europe.

All six suppliers - Behr (Germany), Calsonic (Japan), Denso (Japan), Panasonic (Japan), Sanden (Japan) and Valeo (France) - have 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.

Announcing the fines, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager reiterated the EU executive's determination to root out cartels "that affect the European market, wherever and however they may be organised."

The six car component suppliers coordinated prices or markets, and exchanged sensitive information, for the supply of climate control components and engine cooling components to certain car manufacturers in the EEA. The coordination took place at meetings, notably through trilateral meetings in Europe in one of the cartels, and through other collusive contacts in Europe and Japan through bilateral meetings, by email or phone.

Climate control systems protect passengers from outside temperatures and allow them to regulate inside temperatures. Climate control components include heating-ventilation-air conditioning (HVAC) units, compressors, and e-compressors for electric and hybrid cars. Engine cooling modules (radiators and fans) serve to remove waste heat from the engine compartment.

The EU decision forms part of a series of major investigations into cartels in the automotive parts sector. The Commission has already fined suppliers of automotive bearings, wire harnesses in cars, flexible foam used (inter alia) in car seats, parking heaters in cars and trucks and alternators and starters.

In setting the level of fines, the Commission took into account, in particular, the sales value in the EEA achieved by the cartel participants for the products in question, the serious nature of the infringement, its geographic scope and its duration.

Under the Commission's 2006 Leniency Notice, Denso received full immunity for revealing three of the cartels (thereby avoiding an aggregate fine of ca. € 287 million); Panasonic received full immunity for revealing one of the cartels (thereby avoiding an aggregate fine of ca. € 200 000); and Behr, Calsonic, Denso, Sanden and Valeo benefited from reductions for cooperating with the investigation.

The Commission also applied a 10% reduction in the fines in view of their acknowledgement of participation in the cartel and of their liability in this respect.

More information on this case will be available under the case number AT.39960 in the public case register on the Commission's competition website, once confidentiality issues have been dealt with.

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