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A Busy Year for the European Commission – Cartel Fines

2016 has been a very busy year for the European Commission, not just with Brexit.

The Commission in 2016 imposed fines totalling a staggering €3.7 billion, against several companies involved in anti-competitive activities. This clearly signalling that there has been a concerted effort by the Commission in recent years to pursue and prosecute those involved in cartels that have been operating within the European Union.

Truck Cartel

The stand out Commission decision in 2016 was that against the Truck Cartel, which included: MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF.  The fine totalled a whooping €2.93 billion, with Scania still being investigated separately.

The Commission held that the truck manufactures had colluded for 14 years, between 1997 and 2011, to fix truck prices. This resulted in customers being overcharged because the market price of trucks had been artificially increased by the cartel.

The decision covered both “medium duty” and “heavy duty” trucks, which were defined by the Commission as those weighing 6-16 tonnes and over 16 tonnes respectively.

Battery Cartel

The Commission also recently fined Sony, Panasonic and Sanyo a total of €166 million. Samsung SDI received full immunity for revealing the existence of the cartel and thereby avoided a fine in the region of €58 million.

These companies had coordinated prices and exchanged sensitive information on supplies of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are used widely in electrical items such as: laptops; mobile phones and power tools.

It was held that the rechargeable battery producers colluded and exchanged information from February 2004 to November 2007 and that this affected the price of many electrical goods sold to European consumers across Europe.

Compensation

The case law of the European Court and Council Regulations both confirm that in cases before national courts, including the UK, a Commission decision constitutes binding proof that the behaviour took place and was illegal. Liability therefore cannot be easily disputed by those prosecuted by the Commission.

Although the Commission has fined the companies involved in the anti-competitive behaviour, damages can still be awarded by the national courts without being reduced on account of the Commission’s fine.

Official Commission studies into how cartels tend to over-charge customers, concluded that the typical level of over-charging is in the region of 20%, but have been as high as 50% in some cases.

Acuity are currently acting on behalf of several clients for claims against the companies that have been fined by the Commission, for substantial losses they have suffered as a direct consequence of the illegal price fixing.

If you are interested in making a claim or would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact our Dispute Resolution Solicitor, Scott Dummett, on 02920 674421 or sdummett@acuitylegal.co.uk

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