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Truck cartel

The European Commission has found that five truck manufacturers participated in an illegal cartel concerning the supply of medium and heavy trucks.

The European Commission has now issued its decision finding that five European truck manufacturers participated in an illegal cartel concerning the supply of medium (6-16 tons) and heavy (16+ tons) trucks. The five truck manufacturers have been fined a total of €2.93 billion as follows:

  • Volvo/Renault: €670 million
  • Daimler/Mercedes: €1,009 million
  • Iveco: €495 million
  • DAF: €753 million
  • MAN: Nil

Although admitting its participation in the cartel, MAN received full immunity from fines under the Commission’s leniency policy for revealing the existence of the cartel, thereby avoiding a fine which would have been in the region of €1,200 million.

One other truck manufacturer, Scania, is also being investigated by the Commission for its alleged participation in the cartel. It has not admitted liability and the proceedings against it continue.

The cartel started at a meeting between senior managers of the truck manufacturers in Brussels in January 1997 and continued for a 14-year period until 2011. The cartel covered around 90% of medium to heavy trucks sold in Europe during this period.

The Commission found that the truck manufacturers coordinated:

  • their gross list price throughout Europe. Although the final price payable by the end user was subject to further adjustment, the gross list price was the starting price from which any adjustments were made;
  • the timing of the introduction of new exhaust emissions technologies for medium and heavy trucks to comply with European emission standards; and
  • their behaviour in the pricing for those new technologies.

In its published decision, the Commission says that the purpose of the cartel was to distort independent price setting by the manufacturers and the normal movement of prices for trucks in Europe. The Commission concluded that the cartel’s effects on trade were appreciable.

When announcing the fines last year, the Commission referred to the right for any person or firm affected by the anti-competitive behaviour described to claim damages before national courts.  It has been a long established principle of English law that anyone who suffers loss as a result of the existence of a cartel can claim damages; these claims are called “follow-on damages claims”. Accordingly, those organisations which have used trucks for their own internal purposes, such as local authorities or general carriers, can claim compensation as can hauliers who enter into logistics contracts with their customers to transport the customers’ goods. The likely heads of compensation are the resultant overcharge in the purchase prices/lease costs paid by businesses in respect of trucks acquired during the 14 year period when the cartel was operational (1997-2011).

Weightmans have put together an experienced team of solicitors, barristers, economists and other experts within the truck industry with a view to bringing a proposed class action before the court on behalf of UK businesses which have suffered loss as a result of the cartel. Indeed, some of the manufacturers have announced that they are expecting to receive these follow-on damages claims.