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Commission fines five car safety equipment suppliers €34m in cartel settlement

Staff Writer |
The European Commission has fined Tokai Rika, Takata, Autoliv, Toyoda Gosei and Marutaka a total of €34 million for breaching EU antitrust rules.

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The companies took part in one or more of four cartels for the supply of car seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels to Japanese car manufacturers in the EEA.

All five suppliers acknowledged their involvement in the cartels and agreed to settle the case. Takata was not fined for three of the cartels as it revealed their existence to the Commission. Tokai Rika was not fined for one of the cartels as it revealed its existence to the Commission.

The five car component suppliers addressed in this decision coordinated prices or markets, and exchanged sensitive information for the supply of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels to Japanese car manufacturers Toyota, Suzuki and Honda in the European Economic Area (EEA).

The coordination to form and run the cartel took place outside the EEA, notably in Japan, mainly through meetings at the suppliers' business premises but also in restaurants and hotels, as well as through e-mail exchanges.

Collusion between the car safety equipment suppliers generally intensified when specific requests for quotations were launched by the car manufacturers concerned.

The cartel may have had a significant effect on European customers, since around one out of every eleven cars sold in Europe is produced by a Japanese company. Furthermore, all the Japanese car companies affected by the cartel have manufacturing plants in the EEA.

Under the Commission's 2006 Leniency Notice:

- Takata received full immunity for revealing three of the cartels (thereby avoiding an aggregate fine of ca. €74 million).

- Tokai Rika received full immunity for revealing one of the cartels (thereby avoiding an aggregate fine of ca. €15 million).

- Tokai Rika, Takata, Autoliv and Toyoda Gosei benefited from reductions of their fines for their cooperation with the Commission investigation.

The reductions reflect the timing of their cooperation and the extent to which the evidence they provided helped the Commission to prove the existence of the cartels in which they were involved.

In addition, under the Commission's 2008 Settlement Notice, the Commission applied a reduction of 10% to the fines imposed on the companies in view of their acknowledgment of the participation in the cartel and of the liability in this respect.

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