Swedish truck maker Scania, part of the Volkswagen Group, has been fined €880M (~£770M) for its participation in an illegal cartel for 14 years with five other European truck manufacturers on pricing.
The five other members of the cartel – Daimler, DAF, MAN, Iveco and Volvo/Renault – reached a settlement decision with the Commission in July 2016. MAN, also owned by Volkswagen Group, alerted the Commission to the cartel and escaped a €1.2bn fine. The other four received reduced fines for settling. The biggest penalty, of €1bn, was imposed on Germany’s Daimler. Dutch company DAF was fined €753m, Volvo/Renault €670m and Italy’s Iveco €495m.
(Source: Getty Images/European Commission)
As Scania chose not to settle this cartel case, the Commission’s investigation against Scania was carried out under the standard cartel procedure and it did not benefit from a 10% reduction in its fine according to the Commission’s procedures.
The infringement by the cartel lasted 14 years from 1997 until 2011 and covered the full extent of the European Economic Area (EEA) market. The Commission’s investigations found that initially meetings were held at senior manager level, sometimes at the margins of trade fairs or other events, alongside phone conversations.
Then, from 2004, the cartel was organised via the producers’ German subsidiaries, with those involved exchanging information electronically, up until 2011, when the Commission carried out unannounced inspections of the firms involved.
Discussions between the firms covered the same topics:
- coordinating prices at “gross list” level for for medium and heavy trucks in the EEA (those between 6 to 16 tons) and heavy trucks (weighing over 16 tons);
- the timing for the introduction of emission technologies (from Euro III to the current Euro VI); and,
- the passing onto customers of the costs for those technologies.
Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said:
This cartel affected very substantial numbers of road hauliers in Europe, since Scania and the other truck manufacturers in the cartel produce more than nine out of every 10 medium and heavy trucks sold in Europe.
These trucks account for around three quarters of inland transport of goods in Europe and play a vital role in the European economy. Instead of colluding on pricing, the truck manufacturers should have been competing against each other – also on environmental improvements.
Press reports elsewhere indicate that Scania maintains its innocence; that it fully cooperated with the Commission’s investigations and is likely to appeal the Commission’s decision.
Any person or firm affected by anti-competitive behaviour as described in this case may bring the matter before the courts of the Member States and seek damages.
The case law of the European Court of Justice and Council Regulation 1/2003 both confirm that in cases before national courts, a Commission decision constitutes binding proof that the behaviour took place and was illegal.
Even though the Commission has fined the companies concerned, damages may be awarded without being reduced on account of the Commission fine.