Bundeskartellamt imposes fines of 75 million euros on automotive part manufacturers
On account of price fixing agreements the Bundeskartellamt has imposed fines totalling 75 million euros on five manufacturers of acoustically effective components and staff responsible which supply the automotive industry. The companies involved are Autoneum Germany GmbH, Roßdorf, Carcoustics International GmbH, Leverkusen, Greiner Perfoam GmbH, Enns (Austria), Ideal Automotive GmbH, Burgebrach, and the International Automotive Components Group GmbH, Düsseldorf. In accordance with the authority's leniency programme, no fine was imposed on Johann Borgers GmbH, Bocholt, which was also involved in the agreements but was the first company to cooperate with the Bundeskartellamt.
Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt:
"According to our knowledge and at least from 2005 to 2013 the companies agreed on and coordinated prices in their bids for tenders and orders placed by car manufacturers. The extent of involvement differed in each individual case. The cartel participants were generally in agreement that they would where possible not target the existing business and follow-on orders of their competitors. The companies agreed e.g. on minimum price levels, to pass on increases in raw material prices to their customers, on discounts to be granted, compensation for tool costs and to include cost escalation clauses in their contracts."
The object of the agreements were so-called acoustically effective components. These include flooring, car mats, hat racks, trunk trims, textile wheel house shells, engine compartment insulations, front shock absorbers and trunk shock absorbers.
The agreements were concluded on the basis of numerous bilateral contacts and in three different multilateral discussion groups in which, however, not all the companies were involved to the same degree. Not all the companies were involved in the alleged conduct during the entire period and in respect of all the products mentioned.
This was the first proceeding to be triggered by an anonymous notification to the Bundeskartellamt's electronic whistle-blowing system and concluded with fines (you will find more information on the BKMS Compliance System here). Insider knowledge is of utmost importance in uncovering and breaking up cartels. The whistle-blowing system also gives those informers which have not contacted the Bundeskartellamt up to now. e.g. for fear of reprisal, a chance to support the authority in its cartel prosecution work. Since the BKMS compliance system was installed in 2012 the authority has received a large number of tip-offs about possible competition law violations. When it receives an anonymous tip-off the Bundeskartellamt makes sure first of all that the information given is factually accurate, sufficiently detailed, accompanied by conclusive factual evidence of the infringement and has been confirmed by further research by the authority. In this case the tip-off met these requirements which enabled the Bundeskartellamt to secure further evidence during a dawn raid.
The level of fine is generally calculated according to the seriousness and duration of a competition law violation. In this particular case the market power and the behaviour of the opposite market side also had to be taken into account.
All the companies cooperated with the Bundeskartellamt in uncovering the cartel, which led to a reduction of their fines in line with the authority's lenience programme.
In the majority of the cases the fines are not yet final and can be appealed against to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court. However, a settlement to end the proceedings was agreed with all the companies and representatives involved.
Investigations against another company are still ongoing.