After more than three years of investigation, the EC has closed cartel proceedings against a number of car parts suppliers using its settlement procedure. The companies involved in the cartel bid-rigged (or attempted to bid-rig) a series of tenders for the supply of wire harnesses to a number of car manufacturers, including Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Renault. This is the first of what are likely to be several cartel decisions concerning car parts supplies in the EU.
As an immunity applicant under the EC’s Leniency Notice, Sumitomo escaped the imposition of any fine; all the other participants in the cartel had their fines reduced for their cooperation in the investigation. Fines were further reduced under the settlement procedure by 10% for each infringer.
It is possible that the customers affected by this case will launch private damages actions against the cartelists, particularly since particular identified bids were involved. Although the parties chose in this case to use the settlement procedure, the interplay between it and the private enforcement of antitrust rules through actions for damages still constitutes a potential disincentive for companies to do so. In order to overcome this hurdle, the EC has proposed legislation on private enforcement which addresses the disclosure of settlement (and leniency) submissions before national courts (see EU Competition Newsletter of 1 July 2013).