On 21 June 2017 the European Commission announced fines totalling €27 million for three companies which had been engaged in a cartel relating to the supply of spare parts for vehicle lighting systems (such as headlamps and daytime running lights) to manufacturers of passenger and commercial vehicles after the end of mass production of a car model.
The Commission found that Automotive Lighting, Hella and Valeo coordinated prices and other trading conditions for the supply of vehicle lighting systems across the EEA for a period of more than three years.
The cartelists benefited from reductions under the 2006 Leniency Notice. In revealing the existence of the cartel, Valeo received full immunity and therefore avoided a fine of over €30.5 million. Automotive Lighting and Hella benefited from reductions in the level of their fines of 35 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.
In addition, since all three companies admitted that they had been involved in the cartel and agreed to settle the case under the 2008 Settlement Notice, they each benefited from a reduction of 10 per cent in the amount of any fines imposed upon them.
After the leniency and settlement reductions, the fines imposed upon Automotive Lighting and Hella therefore amounted to €16.4 million and €10.4 million respectively.
The Commission’s decision in this case is the culmination of yet another investigation into suspected cartels in the automotive parts sector since 2012, bringing the total number of decisions to seven. This case, however, is the first that relates to replacement parts for vehicles that are out of production. Most recently, we reported on the Commission’s decision in March 2017 to fine six companies (including Valeo) which were engaged in cartels relating to the supply of air conditioning and engine cooling systems.