On 21 February 2018 the European Commission announced that it had adopted three cartel settlement decisions in which it fined four maritime car carriers, two companies active in the supply of spark plugs (which are used to ignite the petrol in a car engine) and two companies that supply braking systems for participating in cartels.
In the maritime car carriers decision, the Commission fined shipping groups CSAV, K-Line, WWL-EUKOR and NYK a total of €395 million. MOL avoided a fine as it had revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission, therefore receiving immunity in respect of potential fines. The Commission’s press release indicates that the carriers fined in this case were responsible for the transportation of almost half of the motor vehicles imported to and exported from the EU in 2016. The Commission found that the cartelists had coordinated prices, divided customers between them and exchanged commercially sensitive information that could help them to align their prices. Furthermore, the carriers agreed to maintain each other’s traditional business, either by quoting artificially high prices or refraining from providing quotes at all in tender processes run by vehicle manufacturers.
In the spark plugs decision, the Commission imposed fines totalling €76 million on two companies, Bosch and NGK. A third, Denso, was granted full immunity. The cartel was aimed at avoiding competition and maintaining the status quo in the EEA through the exchange of sensitive information and in some cases agreement on prices to be quoted or shares of supply.
In its third decision, the Commission found two cartels relating to the supply of hydraulic braking systems (HBS) and electronic braking systems (EBS) respectively. Suppliers Bosch and Continental received fines totalling €56 million for participating in the HBS cartel together with TRW, which received full immunity for revealing the existence of the cartel. The EBS cartel involved Bosch and Continental: Bosch was fined an additional €19 million for its involvement in this cartel, with Continental receiving full immunity. Both cartels involved the exchange of sensitive information including information relating to price.
In all three decisions, the fined companies benefited from reductions to their fines of varying amounts under the 2006 Leniency Notice for cooperation with the Commission’s investigation. Moreover, each of the decisions was taken under the cartel settlement procedure, for undertakings that admit participation in the cartel, leading to a further 10 per cent reduction in respect of all fines levied.