Automotive cartel damages actions

In recent years the automotive sector has been a particular target of competition authorities including the European Commission (EC). Dozens of suppliers of car parts have been fined for participating in unlawful cartels in which they fixed prices and/or exchanged sensitive information. Given the international nature of the industry, the cartels have been wide ranging and far reaching and the fines to date have totaled several hundred million USD or EUR.

Under EU and UK law, any person or business that purchased goods affected by a cartel is entitled to claim compensation for losses suffered as a result of the higher prices paid due to the price fixing, together with interest since the date of purchase.

Over the last 10 years our US and European teams have helped 7 leading car manufacturers recover hundreds of millions USD/EUR from more than 25 different suppliers of cartelised parts and services. We have acted in complex and high value cases against well-resourced defendants in several jurisdictions including the High Court of England and Wales, the Competition Appeal Tribunal in the UK, the Lyon Commercial Court in France and the Munich District Court in Germany. The Hausfeld team continues to investigate or act in the following automotive cartels:

Closure systems

On 29 September 2020, the EC fined Brose and Kiekert for taking part in two cartels concerning supplies of closure systems for cars in the European Economic Area (EEA) between 2009 and 2012. Closure systems are components such as door modules, window regulators, latches and strikers. Magna was not fined as it revealed both cartels to the Commission. In the US, Kiekert pleaded guilty to participating in this anticompetitive conduct affecting US purchasers.

Occupant Safety Systems

On 22 November 2017 and 5 March 2019, the EC adopted two decisions finding that the main suppliers of OSS products participated in several cartels for the supply of car seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels to car manufacturers in the European Economic Area between 2007 and 2011.  Automotive occupant safety systems provide protection against injury in the event of a crash.  The European Commission first fined Tokai Rika, Takata, Autoliv, Toyoda Gosei and Marutaka and later fined Autoliv and TRW. In the US, Autoliv, Takata, Toyoda Gosei, and TRW pleaded guilty to participating in this anticompetitive conduct affecting US purchasers.

Spark plugs

On 21 February 2018, the EC found that Bosch, NGK and Denso participated in a cartel relating to the supply of automotive spark plugs from 19 January 2000 to 28 July 2011.  Spark plugs are electric devices built in petrol engines of cars, delivering high voltage electric sparks to the combustion chamber. In the US, NGK and Bosch pleaded guilty to participating in similar anticompetitive conduct affect US purchasers.

Braking systems

On 21 February 2018, the EC imposed fines sanctioning two cartels relating to braking systems which lasted from February 2007 to July 2011. The first concerned the supply of hydraulic braking systems (HBS) and involved TRW (USA, now ZF TRW, Germany), Bosch (Germany) and Continental (Germany). The second cartel concerned the supply of electronic braking systems (EBS) and involved Bosch and Continental.

Lighting systems

On 21 June 2017, the EC found Automotive Lighting, Hella and Valeo guilty of operating a cartel relating to lighting systems which lasted from 2004 to 2007. Lighting systems include headlamps, daytime running lights, rear lights and high-mounted stop lamps, fog lights and auxiliary lights. It concerned the aftermarket segment for the supply of spare parts to original equipment manufacturers or their authorised service networks for passenger and commercial vehicles, and more particularly spare parts of lighting systems after the end of mass production of a car model.

Thermal systems

On 8 March 2017, the EC decided against six suppliers of air conditioning and engine cooling components to car manufacturers in the European Economic Area for participating in one or more of four cartels. The suppliers - Behr, Calsonic, Denso, Panasonic, Sanden and Valeo - coordinated prices or markets and exchanged sensitive information.

Alternators & Starters

On 27 January 2016, the EC found that between 2004 and 2010, three Japanese car parts manufacturers (Melco, Hitachi and Denso) coordinated prices and allocated customers or projects relating to alternators and starters, important components of car engines. Although contacts associated with forming and running the cartel took place outside the European Economic Area (EEA), the cartel affected European customers as the products were sold directly to car manufacturers in the EEA. In the US, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric pleaded guilty to participating in this cartel affecting US purchasers.

Bearings

On 19 March 2014, the EC decided against six producers of car and truck bearings for colluding to secretly coordinate their pricing strategy vis-à-vis automotive customers for more than seven years, from April 2004 until July 2011, in the whole EEA. The producers are SKF, Schaeffler, JTEKT, NFC, NSK and NTN. In the US, JTEKT and NSK pleaded guilty for their participation in the cartel affecting US purchasers.

Hausfeld was nominated as 'Competition Team of the Year' for its work with Peugeot (PSA Group) in relation to its bearings claim. The case was also listed as of one of The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases of 2018.

The 2019 Legal Business Awards & The Lawyer's Top 20 Cases for 2018

HAVE YOU BEEN AFFECTED?

If you believe that your business may have been affected by any of the above cartels and you would like to learn more, please contact one of the related lawyers above or complete this form.

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