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Cartel settlements: the European Commission fines maritime car carriers and car parts suppliers a total of €546 million

 

On February 21, 2018, in three separate settlement decisions, the European Commission fined four maritime car carriers €395 million, two suppliers of spark plugs €76 million, and two suppliers of braking systems €75 million for having concluded anti-competitive agreements in breach of article 101 TFEU.

I. Maritime car carriers

The Commission found that the Chilean maritime carrier CSAV, the Japanese carriers “K” Line, MOL and NYK, and the Norwegian/Swedish carrier WWL-EUKOR participated in a cartel concerning intercontinental maritime transport of vehicles in Europe and in other continents for almost 6 years (October 2006 / September 2012).

In particular, according to the European enforcer, the carriers’ sales managers shared information on a regular basis by meeting at each other’s offices, in bars, restaurants or other social gatherings and being in contact over the phone. They agreed to coordinate prices, allocate customers and exchange commercially sensitive information on price, such as charges and surcharges to offset currency or oil prices fluctuations.

They also agreed to maintain the status quo in the market and to respect each other’s traditional business on certain routes or with certain customers, by quoting artificially high prices or not quoting at all in tenders issued by vehicle manufacturers.

The Commission’s investigation started with an immunity application submitted by MOL.

The fine were set as follows:

Company Reduction under Leniency Notice Reduction under Settlement Notice Fine (€)
MOL 100% 10% 0
NYK 20% 10% 141 820 000
“K” LINE 50% 10% 39 100 000
WWL-EUKOR 20% 10% 207 335 000
CSAV 25% 10% 7 033 000

II. Spark plugs

The Commission found that Bosch (Germany), Denso and NGK (both Japan) participated in a cartel concerning supplies of spark plugs to car manufacturers in the European Economic Area (“EEA”) from 2000 until 2011.

Spark plugs are automotive electric devices built in petrol engines of cars, delivering high voltage electric sparks to the combustion chamber.

In particular, the parties agreed not to compete by respecting each other’s traditional customers and maintaining the existing status quo in the spark plugs industry in the EEA. They exchanged commercially sensitive information and agreed on the prices to be quoted to certain customers, the share of supplies to specific customers and the respect of historical supply rights. This coordination took place through bilateral contacts between Bosch and NGK, and between Denso and NGK.

The Commission’s investigation started with an immunity application submitted by Denso.

The fines were set as follows:

Company Reduction under

Leniency Notice

Reduction under

Settlement Notice

Fine (€)
Denso 100% 10% 0
Bosch 28% 10% 45 834 000
NGK 42% 10% 30 265 000


III. Braking systems

The Commission found two cartels relating to braking systems. The first concerned the supply of hydraulic braking systems (HBS) between TRW, Bosch and Continental and lasted from February 2007 to March 2011. The parties had discussions of general sales conditions of hydraulic braking systems for two customers, Daimler and BMW.

The second cartel concerned the supply of electronic braking systems (EBS) between Bosch and Continental and lasted from September 2010 to July 2011. This second cartel related to one specific tender for electronic braking systems for Volkswagen.

In both cartels, the three car part suppliers aimed at coordinating their market behaviour by exchanging sensitive information, including on pricing elements. The coordination took place at bilateral meetings and through phone conversations or email exchanges.

The Commission’s investigation in this case started with an immunity application by TRW.

The fines were set as follows:

 

  Company Reduction

under Leniency Notice

Reduction under Settlement Notice Fine (€)
1  

TRW

Bosch

Continental

Daimler BMW  

10%

10%

10%

 

0

12 072 000

44 006 000

100%

35%

20%

100%

35%

100%

2  

Continental

Bosch

VW  

10%

10%

 

0

19 348 000

100%

30%

 

 

 

 

 

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