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EU imposes fines of EUR 34m on seatbelt, airbag cartel

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EU imposes fines of EUR 34m on seatbelt, airbag cartel

Photo © little.eagle - Fotolia-200

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission imposed fines of EUR 34 million Wednesday on five car safety equipment suppliers to Japanese car manufacturers in the European Economic Area for breaching EU antitrust rules.

The companies Tokai Rika, Takata, Autoliv, Toyoda Gosei and Marutaka were fined for taking part in one or more of four cartels for the supply of car seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels to Japanese car manufacturers in the EEA.

All five suppliers acknowledged their involvement in the cartels and agreed to settle the case. Takata was not fined for three of the cartels as it revealed their existence to the Commission. Tokai Rika was not fined for one of the cartels as it revealed its existence to the Commission.

"Seatbelts and airbags protect lives every day and are essential in all cars in the EU," said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager: "The five suppliers fined today colluded to maximise their profits from the sale of these components. This may have raised the costs of these car parts for a number of manufacturers selling cars in Europe, potentially affecting consumers. We do not accept cartels that affect the European consumers, even if the cartel is organised outside Europe."

The five car component suppliers addressed in this decision coordinated prices or markets, and exchanged sensitive information for the supply of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels to Japanese car manufacturers Toyota, Suzuki and Honda in the European Economic Area (EEA). The coordination to form and run the cartel took place outside the EEA, notably in Japan, mainly through meetings at the suppliers' business premises but also in restaurants and hotels, as well as through e-mail exchanges. Collusion between the car safety equipment suppliers generally intensified when specific requests for quotations were launched by the car manufacturers concerned.

The Commission says the cartel may have had a significant effect on European customers, since around one out of every eleven cars sold in Europe is produced by a Japanese company. Furthermore, all the Japanese car companies affected by the cartel have manufacturing plants in the EEA.

The decision is part of a series of major investigations into cartels in the automotive parts sector. The Commission has previously 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 and lighting systems. Today's decision brings the total amount of Commission fines for cartels in this sector to EUR 1.6 billion.

More information on this case will be available under the case number AT.39881 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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