The European Union (EU) said that it is investigating allegations that major makers have operated an illegal cartel to rig prices and they would face heavy penalties if found guilty.
Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that the companies had been formally notified they were under suspicion of breaching anti-trust rules.
Although she did not name them, Germany’s MAN and Daimler Benz as well as Sweden’s Volvo confirmed they were involved in the probe. Volvo added that it was “cooperating fully with the authorities” and had already alerted shareholders of a likely impact on profit.
“It seems that heavy-weight and medium-weight truck companies have agreed to coordinate pricing in European economic area,” Vestager told a news briefing. “If the case is proven, this would be a very serious infringement.”
Vestager added that the suspected cartel involved many companies, with activity peaking a decade ago. Asked if a financial settlement were possible in the case, she commented that the gravity of the infractions meant that “settlement will be difficult here”. If evidence is found to support the allegations, the companies involved face a fine of up to 10% of annual worldwide sales.
The investigation follows a series of raids carried out on large truck manufacturers in 2011, which also involved Sweden’s Scania and Italy’s Iveco.
The decision to issue a so-called “statement of objections” to the companies, while signifying deep suspicion of wrongdoing, does not presume guilt in the matter. Breaking up cartels in the EU can be a lengthy process, often taking years to proceed through the European courts.
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