September 19, 2014 / 10:22 AM / in 4 years

EU's Almunia says more cartel fines on way for car parts makers

FLORENCE Italy (Reuters) - European Union regulators are ready to penalise several car parts suppliers found guilty of price fixing, Europe’s antitrust chief said on Friday, continuing a crackdown in tandem with other authorities against cartels in the sector.

European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia addresses a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels July 9, 2014. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

For the past five years, competition watchdogs from the United States, Europe and across Asia have uncovered multiple cartels, handing out record fines in some cases, and calling time on a business model that has served parts makers well.

Auto parts makers, in particular those from Japan, have colluded for years to inflate parts prices for automakers, dealers and repair shops in a global market with annual sales of more than 80 million vehicles and now exposed in a worldwide sweep by regulators.

European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, who has handed down more than 1 billion euros (785.83 million pounds) in fines against two car parts cartels in the last year, said he was ready to take more action.

“We have already taken two decisions against car parts producers – the wire harnesses case in July 2013 and the bearings case last March – and there are more in the pipeline,” he told an International Bar Association conference.

Almunia, who will leave office at the end of October, did not name any company but said his successor, former Danish economy minister Margrethe Vestager, would have plenty on her plate.

“I will hand over to Ms Vestager a long list of other investigations in this sector,” he said.

In March, he fined German engineering group Schaeffler IPO-SHF.F, Sweden’s SKF (SKFb.ST) and Japanese companies NTN (6472.T), NSK (6471.T) and NFC a total of 953.3 million euros for taking part in a ball bearings cartel.

Yazaki, the world’s number one maker of the car wire harnessing systems that power up the electronic components linking a vehicle’s computers to various functions, Furukawa Electric and German peer Leoni were fined 142 million euros in July last year.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by John Stonestreet

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