Scania fails to overturn Trucks cartel fine
On 2nd February 2022, the EU's General Court upheld the EU's €880.5 million fine imposed on Scania for its participation in the Trucks cartel. The other cartelists agreed to settle but Scania decided to fight.
On 16 July 2016, the European Commission issued a settlement Decision against 5 truck manufacturers – Daimler, Volvo/Renault, Iveco, MAN and DAF (2016 Settlement Decision). This established that they had, inter alia, participated in a cartel involving the pricing of medium/heavy trucks over a 14-year period between (January 1997 to January 2011) across the EEA. Their participation in the Trucks cartel resulted in fines exceeding €2.5 billion.
Unlike the above truck manufacturers, Scania chose not to settle with the European Commission in 2016. An investigation into its conduct therefore continued under the Commission’s standard (non-settlement) cartel procedure. Scania had access to the Commission’s investigative case file, submitted responses to the Commission’s Statement of Objections and attended an oral hearing in 2016.
In September 2017, the Commission issued its (heavily redacted) findings (Scania Decision) imposing a fine of €880.5 million and confirming Scania’s involvement in a cartel which:
- Agreed and/or coordinated on intended changes of gross prices and gross price lists, as well as the respective timing of such changes;
- Coordinated on the timing and the passing on of costs for the introduction of emission technologies for medium and heavy trucks required by EURO 3 to 6 emission standards;
- Shared other commercially sensitive information such as delivery periods, order intake, stock figures, current net prices, and truck configurators.
Scania elected to challenge the Scania Decision to the EU’s General Court, raising 9 pleas in support its appeal seeking:
(i) that the Commission produce the written submissions of two settling cartelists to the Commission’s Statement of Objections
(ii) the annulment of the Scania Decision either in full or in part and/or
(iii) the reduction of the amount of the fine.
The EU’s General Court heard Scania’s appeal on 30 June 2020 in private (see Perspectives).
General Court Decision
Earlier today, the General Court unequivocally dismissed Scania’s appeal and upheld the €880.5 million fine in its entirety.
In reaching those conclusions, the General Court found that the Commission was entitled to use the so called “hybrid” procedure to issue the 2016 Settlement Decision before adopting the Scania Decision resulting from the Commission’s standard (non-settlement) cartel procedure. It found there was no infringement of Scania’s presumption of innocence or right to defence.
The General Court also determined that the Commission, in its findings as to the operation of the Trucks cartel, had established to the requisite legal standard that such conduct formed part of an overall plan with the single anti-competitive objective of restricting competition in the relevant truck markets.
Implications of the General Court’s Decision
Scania is subject to a significant number of private damages actions across Europe based on the Trucks cartel. It has consistently maintained its public denial of any involvement in anti-competitive behaviour. With the possibility of a further appeal to the EU Court of Justice and/or the spectre of yet further private damages actions, it’s difficult to see a change in this position. However, the terms on which the appeal to the General Court was dismissed will undoubtedly provide further comfort to those involved in such claims that they are entitled to damages resulting from the anti-competitive conduct.
Authored with the assistance of Quinten Ijland.