Fines totalling €34M handed out to car safety equipment suppliers for price fixing cartel

The European Commission has fined Tokai Rika, Takata, Autoliv, Toyoda Gosei and Marutaka a total of €34 million for breaching EU antitrust rules.

According to the European Commission the companies took part in one – or more – of four cartels regarding the supply of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels to Japanese car manufactures in the European Economic Area (EEA).

All five suppliers acknowledged their involvement in the cartels and agreed to settle the case. Takata was not fined for three of the cartels as it revealed their existence to the Commission. Tokai Rika was not fined for one of the cartels as it revealed its existence to the Commission.

“Seatbelts and airbags protect lives every day and are essential in all cars in the EU. The five suppliers fined today colluded to maximise their profits from the sale of these components. This may have raised the costs of these car parts for a number of manufacturers selling cars in Europe, potentially affecting consumers,” said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in an official Commission press release.

The five car component suppliers addressed in this decision coordinated prices or markets, and exchanged sensitive information for the supply of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels to Japanese car manufacturers Toyota, Suzuki and Honda in the EEA.

The coordination to form and run the cartel took place outside the EEA, notably in Japan, mainly through meetings at the suppliers’ business premises but also in restaurants and hotels, as well as through e-mail exchanges.

Collusion between the car safety equipment suppliers generally intensified when specific requests for quotations were launched by the car manufacturers concerned. The Commission’s investigation revealed the existence of four separate infringements.

Takata received full immunity for revealing three of the cartels and thereby avoiding a fine of about €74 million. Tokai Rika received full immunity for revealing one of the cartels and thus avoided a fine of about €15 million.

In total, Takata was fined with €12,724 million, Autoliv was fined €8,05 million, Toyoda Goseireceived a fine of €11,26 million, Tokai Rika’s fine amounted to €1,81 million and Marutaka was fined €156,000.

The Commission has set up by a tool to make it easier for individuals to alert it about anti-competitive behaviour while maintaining their anonymity. The new tool protects whistleblowers’ anonymity through a specifically-designed encrypted messaging system that allows two way communications. The tool is accessible via this link.