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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Air con cartel fined a cool €155 million

Six car air conditioning and engine cooling suppliers have been fined €155 million by the European Commission for taking part in one or more of four cartels in the European Economic Area. 

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy said:“Even though air conditioning and cooling components are not something you see as products, they are very much something you feel. In this case you might also have felt it in your wallet even though temperatures would still be regulated in your car. Today's decision underlines that we do not accept cartels that affect the European market, wherever and however they may be organised."

The six car component suppliers addressed in this decision coordinated prices or markets, and exchanged sensitive information, for the supply of climate control components and engine cooling components to certain car manufacturers in the EEA. These suppliers are Behr (Germany), Calsonic (Japan), Denso (Japan), Panasonic (Japan), Sanden (Japan) and Valeo (France). The coordination took place at meetings, notably through trilateral meetings in Europe in one of the cartels, and through other collusive contacts in Europe and Japan through bilateral meetings, by email or phone. The Commission's investigation revealed the existence of four separate infringements. All six suppliers acknowledged their involvement in the cartels and agreed to settle the case. Denso was not fined for three of the cartels as it revealed their existence to the Commission. Panasonic was not fined for one of the cartels as it revealed its existence to the Commission.

The fines were set on the basis of the Commission's 2006 Guidelines on fines (see also MEMO).

In setting the level of fines, the Commission took into account, in particular, the sales value in the EEA achieved by the cartel participants for the products in question, the serious nature of the infringement, its geographic scope and its duration.

Under the Commission's 2006 Leniency Notice:
  • Denso received full immunity for revealing three of the cartels (thereby avoiding an aggregate fine of ca. € 287 million).
  • Panasonic received full immunity for revealing one of the cartels (thereby avoiding an aggregate fine of ca. € 200 000).
  • Behr, Calsonic, Denso, Sanden and Valeo benefited from reductions of their fines for their cooperation with the Commission investigation. The reductions reflect the timing of their cooperation and the extent to which the evidence they provided helped the Commission to prove the existence of the cartels in which they were involved.
In addition, under the Commission's 2008 Settlement Notice, the Commission applied a reduction of 10% to the fines imposed on the companies in view of their acknowledgment of the participation in the cartel and of the liability in this respect.

Details are set out in the Commission Press Release.

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