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EU hits car safety equipment suppliers with EUR 368m cartel fine

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EU hits car safety equipment suppliers with EUR 368m cartel fine

Photo © little.eagle - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission fined Autoliv and TRW EUR 368,277,000 for breaching EU antitrust rules Tuesday. Autoliv, TRW and Takata took part in two cartels to supply car seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels to European car producers.

The companies took part in two cartels for the supply of car seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels to European car producers. All three suppliers acknowledged their involvement in the cartels and agreed to settle the case, says the Commission.

It is the second time the EU executive has fined fine car safety equipment suppliers for taking part in a cartel.

"Components such as seatbelts and airbags are essential for the safety of the millions of people that use their car to drive to work or take their children to school every day," said the Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager: "The three suppliers colluded to increase their profits from the sale of these life-saving components. These cartels ultimately hurt European consumers and adversely impacted the competitiveness of the European automotive sector, which employs around 13 million people in the EU."

The three car equipment suppliers addressed in this decision exchanged commercially sensitive information and coordinated their market behaviour for the supply of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels to the Volkswagen Group and the BMW Group. The coordination to form and run the cartel took place mainly through meetings at the suppliers' business premises but also in restaurants and hotels, as well as through phone calls and e-mail exchanges.

The cartel is likely to have had a significant effect on European customers, since the customers affected by the cartel, the Volkswagen Group and the BMW Group sell around three of every ten cars bought in Europe. The Commission's investigation revealed the existence of two separate infringements. The following table details the participation and the duration of each company's involvement in each of the two infringements:

 

Supplier (group)

Scope

Start

End

1

  • Takata
  • Autoliv
  • TRW

Sales of seatbelts, airbags & steering wheels to Volkswagen Group

4/01/2007

28/03/2011 - TRW

30/03/2011 – Autoliv, Takata

2

  • Takata
  • Autoliv
  • TRW

Sales of seatbelts, airbags & steering wheels to BMW Group

28/02/2008 – Autoliv, Takata

5/06/2008 - TRW

16/09/2010 - Autoliv

17/02/2011 - Takata, TRW

This Commission decision is one of a series of major investigations into cartels in the automotive parts sector. In particular, the Commission has already fined Autoliv and Takata for participating in one or more of four cartels concerning the supply of occupant safety systems to certain Japanese car manufacturers and TRW for the provision of Hydraulic Braking Systems (HBS) to Daimler and BMW.

The Commission has also fined suppliers of automotive bearings, wire harnesses in cars , flexible foam used (inter alia) in car seats, parking heaters in cars and trucks, alternators and starters, air conditioning and engine cooling systems, lighting systems, spark plugs and braking systems. The latest decision brings the total amount of EU fines for cartels in this sector to EUR 2.15 billion.

More information on this case will be available under the case number AT.40481 in the public case register on the Commission's competition website, once confidentiality issues have been dealt with. For more information on the Commission's action against cartels, see its cartels website.


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