EU slaps €1bn fine on car bearing cartel

Wednesday 19 March 2014 12.23
The European Commission has slapped fines totaling nearly €1 billion on a cartel of European and Japanese companies
The European Commission has slapped fines totaling nearly €1 billion on a cartel of European and Japanese companies

The European Commission has slapped fines totaling nearly €1 billion on a cartel of European and Japanese companies that supply ball bearings to car and truck manufacturers.

The six companies "colluded to secretly coordinate their pricing strategy vis-a-vis automotive customers for more than seven years" said the Commission in announcing the €953m in fines.

The biggest fine of €370.5m was imposed on Germany's Schaeffler, followed by Sweden's SKF at €315.1m.

Of the four Japanese companies, three were fined: NTN €201.4m, NSK €62.4m and NFC nearly €4m.

JTEKT escaped a fine as it reported the cartel to the European Commission.

The other five companies had their fines reduced as they agreed to settle with the Commission.

"Today's decision is a further milestone in the Commission's ongoing effort to bust cartels in the markets for car parts," said Joaquin Almunia, the Commission vice president in charge of competition policy.

The Commission said the companies colluded from 2004 to 2011 to pass along steel cost increases to vehicle manufacturers.

European vehicle manufacturers, which are estimated to have bought over €2bn in bearings annually, would request bids to select their suppliers for the metal spheres which reduce friction between moving parts in cars and trucks.

The commission said the six bearings manufacturers had colluded and shared sensitive information in submitting bids.

The Commission has also busted producers of automotive electric wiring and foam used in car seats.

"I hope the fines imposed will deter companies from engaging in such illegal behaviour and help restore competition in this industry," said Almunia.

"If left unchallenged, cartels for car parts might impair the competitiveness of the automotive sector and artificially raise the price paid by European consumers who buy cars," he added.