The European Commission (the Commission) has fined six suppliers of car climate control and engine cooling components for coordinating prices or markets as well as the exchange of commercially sensitive information. The Commission’s investigation revealed the existence of four separate infringements for the supply of aforementioned components to six car manufacturers in the European Economic Area. According to the Commission’s press release, the coordination took place at meetings, notably through trilateral meetings and other collusive meetings by email or by phone.
Several suppliers were able to profit from full immunity or a reduction of their fines under the Commission’s 2006 Leniency Notice. The leniency policy offers companies involved in a cartel either a total immunity from fines (if it is the first to report an undetected cartel to the Commission) or a reduction of fines which the Commission would have otherwise imposed on them. Two suppliers of components received full immunity for revealing cartels. One supplier revealed the existence of three cartels and another supplier revealed the existence of the other cartel. In addition, five suppliers were able to benefit from a reduction of their fines.
All six suppliers acknowledged their involvement in the cartels and agreed to settle the case with the Commission thus acknowledging their involvement in the cartel. In exchange the parties have benefited from a faster settlement of the case and a 10% reduction of their fines.
In total the Commission has fined the six suppliers for a total of € 155 million for taking part in one or more of four cartels.
In general the automotive parts sector is under close scrutiny by EU antitrust authorities. The Commission has already fined suppliers of wire harnesses in cars (2013), automotive bearings (2014), flexible foam used in car seats (2014), parking heaters in trucks and cars (2015) and alternators and starters (2016).