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EU Commission investigates price fixing among automotive exhaust system suppliers

27 March 2014

The European Commission confirmed that on 25 March 2014 Commission officials undertook unannounced inspections at the premises of several automotive exhaust system suppliers. The companies concerned “may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices and/or abuse of a dominant market position (Articles 101 and 102 respectively of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union),” said the Commission.

The Commission has not released the names of the companies that were inspected. According to the German newspaper Die Welt and to Bloomberg, the Commission has been suspecting a number of automotive exhaust manufacturers of price fixing. The group of companies under suspicion reportedly includes Eberspächer, Faurecia and Tenneco.

A spokesperson for Eberspächer confirmed that the company has been under investigation. Offices at the Eberspächer plant in Esslingen near Stuttgart, Germany have been searched by the Commission. Eberspächer is a global supplier of automotive exhaust systems, employing about 7300 people in more than 25 countries. In 2012, Eberspächer generated sales of 2.8 billion Euros.

Faurecia—the French automotive supplier 52% owned by PSA Peugeot Citroen—also confirmed that the company has been investigated by the EU antitrust authorities. Tenneco, based in Lake Forest, IL, said EU officials visited a facility in Edenkoben, Germany to gather information.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia had indicated a harder line against auto suppliers—with more than 100 auto components and as many as 70 companies under investigation—due to concerns about particularly intense price fixings in this field. The Commission recently sentenced several manufacturers of ball bearings to a combined antitrust fine of almost one billion Euros.

There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anticompetitive conduct, noted the Commission. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned co-operate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defense.

Source: EU Commission | Die Welt | Bloomberg