Price fixing on trucks - Purchasers of trucks have potential claims against manufacturers

Published: 19/05/2017

Introduction
Following the recent resolution of confidentiality issues, the European Commission (EC) has now published, in full, the decision that it made last July that a cartel had operated between five major truck manufacturers resulting in:

  1. the co-ordination of the pricing of medium and heavy trucks through the period 1997 - 2011
  2. collusion on the timing of the introduction of emission technologies
  3. the passing of the cost of the emissions technologies onto customers
  4. As the EC confirmed in its own press release last summer, any person or firm affected by this anti-competitive behaviour may bring a claim for damages in their national court.
Findings of the EC
The EC’s decision related specifically to the market for the manufacturing of medium and heavy trucks (defined by the EC as respectively, weighing between 6-16 tonnes and over 16 tonnes).

The EC found that five major truck manufacturers, Man, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and Daff had all engaged in a cartel.

The EC’s investigation found that the infringement covered the entire European Economic Area and lasted for 14 years, from 1997 until 2011. Between 1997 and 2004, meetings were held at Senior Management level, sometimes at the margins of trade fairs or other events. This was complimented by phone conversations. From 2004 onwards, the cartel was organised via the truck producer’s German subsidiaries with participants generally exchanging information electronically.

As a result of the findings of the EC, fines were set against certain of the 
manufacturers; Man received full immunity for revealing the existence of a cartel and therefore avoided a fine. Similarly, Volvo/Renault, Daimler and Iveco received reduced fines to reflect the timing of their co-operation and the extent to which the evidence they provided helped the Commission prove the existence of the cartel. 

All companies have acknowledged their involvement and agreed to settle the case.

Compensation claims

Any person or business which purchased or leased trucks during the relevant 
period may potentially bring claims for damages that they have suffered as a result of the cartel. This right is unaffected by any fines that have already been imposed by the EC. The anti-trust damages directive (a European-wide instrument) has been established (and has been adopted) to make it easier for victims of anti-competitive practices to secure damages.

The loss to be claimed by purchasers/leasers of the relevant trucks will be measured in the inflated prices that they paid for the trucks as a result of the cartel.

Relevant considerations to a claim will be:
  1. from whom the truck was purchased/leased
  2. the date of the purchase/lease
  3. the type of truck.
Conclusion
The EC’s findings have been accepted by each manufacturer and therefore will not be appealed. The decision of the EC assists potential claimants given that it constitutes binding proof that the behaviour took place and was illegal. Accordingly, anti-competitive behaviour has already been proven. The potential claimants now need to demonstrate the link of that behaviour to losses that they have suffered.

The content of this article is for general information only. If you believe that you may have been affected by these events and wish to investigate whether you have a claim then please contact Laurence Weeks of our Litigation and Dispute Resolution team to obtain an initial view of the claim. Law covered as at May 2017.

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