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CARTELS : PRODUCERS OF CAR AND TRUCK BEARINGS FINED 953 MN EURO.

The Commission has fined two European and four Japanese companies for operating a cartel on the automotive bearings market

The European Commission has dismantled yet another cartel in the car parts sector, this time on the market for automotive bearings used by car, truck and car part manufacturers to reduce friction between moving parts inside a vehicle. This market in the EU alone is worth around 2 billion a year. The Commission carried out surprise inspections in the sector in November 2011 (see Europolitics 4302), and has now handed down harsh punishments: 953 million in fines for six companies (two in Europe and four in Japan).

The Commission's Vice-President in charge of competition policy, Joaquin Almunia, said: "Today's decision is a further milestone in the Commission's ongoing effort to bust cartels in the markets for car parts, after the sanctions we imposed on producers of electric wires and of foam used in car seats".

The six groups concerned had colluded to secretly coordinate their pricing strategy vis-a-vis automotive customers for more than seven years, from April 2004 until July 2011, in the whole of the European Economic Area (EEA).aThe companies involved in this secret cartel coordinated the passing-on of steel price increases to their automotive customers (manufacturers of cars, lorries and parts). Automotive bearings are generally manufactured at the request of clients, who issue 'requests for quotations'. Companies in the cartel colluded on these requests, and also exchanged commercially sensitive information.

The Commission's list of targets is impressive; it includes the Swedish company SKF AB, the largest global manufacturer of bearings, which has been fined 315,109,000, and the German company Schaeffler AG, another major operator. This group received the largest fine of 370,481,000. Next on the list is the Japanese company NTN, which was fined 201,354,000, followed by NSK, which must pay 62,406,000, and NFC, which faces a fine of 3,956,000. However, JTEKT received full immunity for revealing the existence of the cartel, and thereby avoided a fine of 86,037,000 for its participation in the infringement.

NSK, NFC, SKF and Schaeffler have had their initial fines reduced for cooperating in the inquiry.aMoreover, the Commission reduced the fines imposed on all the companies by 10% since they acknowledged their participation in the cartel, and therefore their liability.

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Publication:European Report
Date:Mar 20, 2014
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