Mercedes-Benz and three of its commercial vehicle dealers (Ciceley, Enza and Road Range) have admitted to infringing competition law, and will pay fines totalling £2.6 million, the Office of Fair Trading has announced.
Three separate admitted infringements involving the distribution of Mercedes-Benz trucks or vans led to the settlements, which were reduced by 15 per cent to reflect the companies’ admissions and their agreement to a streamlined administrative procedure.
The OFT’s probe centred on the distribution of Mercedes-Benz vehicles by dealers mainly active in the North of England and parts of Wales and Scotland. All of the admitted breaches took place between 2008 and 2010.
While the exact nature of the infringements varied, each contained at least some element of market sharing, price coordination or exchange of commercially sensitive information, the OFT said.
Mercedes-Benz UK Ltd, its parent Daimler UK Ltd and its ultimate parent Daimler AG have agreed to pay a fine of just over £1.49m, whilst the rest of the total will be paid by dealers Ciceley Commercials Ltd and its ultimate parent Ciceley Ltd (£659,675); Enza Motors Ltd, its parent Enza Holdings Ltd and its ultimate parent Enza Group Ltd (£347,198); and Road Range Ltd (£115,774).
A fourth dealer, Northside (comprising Northside Truck & Van Ltd and its ultimate parent S.A.H. Ltd), has also admitted infringement of competition law, but is to avoid a penalty due to an application for immunity after the OFT investigation commenced.
Immunity may be granted by the OFT under its leniency policy, in return for reporting certain categories of infringements of the Competition Act 1998 and assisting the OFT with its investigation.
The OFT said the settlements proved it would take firm action against companies which have colluded to deny their customers fair competition, regardless of the size of the parties involved.
OFT senior director of cartels, Ali Nikpay, added: “These cases also underline that the OFT can uncover cartels even in cases where the businesses involved do not blow the whistle, as well as being a concrete illustration of the benefits of businesses acting quickly and cooperating at the earliest opportunity so as to qualify for immunity from fines.”