Continental fined for participating in braking systems cartels

Identified as a participant in two cartels related to braking systems, tyre and automotive systems manufacturer Continental has received a fine of just over 44 million euros for its involvement. The first of these cartels concerned the supply of hydraulic braking systems and also involved TRW (now ZF TRW) and Bosch. The second cartel concerned the supply of electronic braking systems and also involved Bosch.

The European Commission states that in both cartels, the participating companies aimed to coordinate their market behaviour by exchanging sensitive information, including on pricing elements. The coordination took place at bilateral meetings and through phone conversations or email exchanges.

The first cartel lasted from February 2007 to March 2011 and involved discussions of general sales conditions of hydraulic braking systems for two customers, Daimler and BMW. The second cartel lasted from September 2010 to July 2011 and related to one specific tender for electronic braking systems for Volkswagen.

The Commission’s investigation in this case started with an immunity application by TRW, and fines were calculated on the basis of the European Commission’s 2006 Guidelines on fines. In setting the level of fines, the Commission took into account, in particular, the sales value in the European Economic Area achieved by the cartel participants for the products in question, the serious nature of the infringement, its geographic scope and its duration.

The 44,006,000 euro fine imposed upon Continental was for its involvement in the hydraulic braking systems cartel; cooperation with the Commission’s investigation prevented an even higher fine being handed out. The company received full immunity for revealing the electronic braking systems cartel, thereby avoiding a fine of 22 million euros.

Commenting on the two abovementioned cartels, as well as a third cartel related to the intercontinental maritime transport of vehicles, EC Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, said: “The Commission has sanctioned several companies for colluding in the maritime transport of cars and the supply of car parts. The three separate decisions taken today show that we will not tolerate anticompetitive behaviouraffecting European consumers and industries. By raising component prices or transport costs for cars, the cartels ultimately hurt European consumers and adversely impacted the competitiveness of the European automotive sector, which employs around 12 million people in the EU.”

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