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06/12/2016

Truck makers face fines as EU steps up cartel investigation

Competition

Truck makers face fines as EU steps up cartel investigation

Volvo remain one of Europe's largest truck manufacturers. [ponte1112/Flickr]

The European Commission has stepped up a wide-ranging cartel investigation that could lead to heavy fines for some of the world’s biggest truck makers.

The EU’s executive announced on Thursday (20 November) that it had sent formal charge sheets to several manufacturers it suspected of price fixing, marking the next phase of a complex investigation that began with raids on a number of companies’ headquarters in January 2011.

Daimler, Volvo, Volkswagen’s MAN and Iveco parent CNH Industrial all confirmed they had received the European regulator’s so-called statements of objections or were expecting it. Scania, also controlled by VW, had no immediate comment.

Companies can be fined up to 10% of their annual revenue if the Commission concludes that there is sufficient evidence of an infringement of EU rules barring cartels and the abuse of market dominance.

New EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that she believed it would be extremely difficult to reach agreed settlements in the trucking case.

Such settlements are used by the Commission to bring swifter conclusions to cases, offering companies reduced fines if they admit to the alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

Vestager, who took office this month, also emphasised the broader impact of price-fixing.

“Keeping the cost of road transportation high has a damaging effect on the rest of the economy,” she said during a news conference in Brussels.

In its 2013 annual report, Volvo said it may face a significant financial hit as a result of the price-fixing probe.

“It is probable that the group’s result and cash flow may be materially adversely affected as a result of the ongoing investigation,” the company said.

Daimler has also warned shareholders that it may have to pay “considerable fines”.

The EU executive declined to identify the companies that had received notice of its findings, saying only that a large number were involved.

“The Commission has concerns that certain heavy and medium-duty truck producers may have agreed or coordinated their pricing behaviour,” the Commission said in a statement.