August 12, 2015 / 8:17 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-TrueCar says it considers U.S. antitrust probe to be closed

(Adds TrueCar comment and FTC and dealer trade group declining to comment)

Aug 12 (Reuters) - U.S. antitrust enforcers have closed an investigation into whether auto dealers ganged up against shopping website TrueCar Inc in 2011 and 2012 in order to raise prices, TrueCar said in a securities filing on Wednesday.

TrueCar said in the filing it had responded to a request for documents from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and considered the matter to be closed. The company added in a statement later on Wednesday that it was not in a position to comment on the status of the matter with respect to others.

A spokeswoman for the FTC declined to comment.

At issue in the investigation was a feature of TrueCar’s website that allowed users to collect bids from auto dealerships. The feature encouraged dealers to undercut one another on price, almost as in a reverse-auction.

Dealers rebelled, and many canceled their affiliations with TrueCar, threatening its business model. TrueCar then changed its website, and in 2013, dealers received letters from the FTC asking them to preserve documents.

Agreements among competitors not to deal with a distribution channel are generally unlawful, according to lawyers with expertise in antitrust law.

TrueCar chief executive Scott Painter said in 2013 the company would be considered a victim if antitrust enforcers found a violation of the law, but that TrueCar had moved past the issue and was not interested in fighting dealers. The company went public in May 2014.

The National Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group, said in 2013 that it was cooperating with the FTC but did not believe it was a target. A spokesman on Wednesday referred questions to the FTC. (Reporting by David Ingram in New York; Editing by Chris Reese and Alan Crosby)

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