Truckmakers face fines as EU steps up cartel investigation

Thu Nov 20, 2014 10:53am EST
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By Jan Strupczewski and Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission has stepped up a wide-ranging cartel investigation that could lead to heavy fines for some of the world's biggest truckmakers.

The Commission announced on Thursday that it had sent formal charge sheets to several manufacturers it suspected of price fixing, marking the next phase of a complex investigation that began with raids on a number of companies' headquarters in January 2011.

Daimler, Volvo and Iveco parent CNH Industrial all confirmed receipt of the European regulator's so-called statements of objections, together with Volkswagen-controlled Scania and MAN.

Companies can be fined up to 10 percent of their annual revenue if the Commission concludes that there is sufficient evidence of an infringement of EU rules barring cartels and the abuse of market dominance.

New EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said on Thursday that she believed the case would be extremely difficult to resolve though agreed settlements, in which companies typically pay reduced fines in return for admitting anticompetitive behavior to expedite the investigation.

Vestager, who took office this month, also emphasized the broader impact of price-fixing.

"Keeping the cost of road transportation high has a damaging effect on the rest of the economy," she said during a news conference in Brussels.

In its 2013 annual report, Volvo said it may face a significant financial hit as a result of the price-fixing probe.   Continued...

European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans listens to European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager (R) during the first official meeting of the EU's executive body at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels November 5, 2014.  REUTERS/Francois Lenoir