EU Commission imposes a fine of 875 million euros on BMW and Volkswagen for emissions technology cartel – JURIST – News
The European Commission announced on Thursday that the German automakers BMW, Daimler and the Volkswagen Group (Volkswagen, Audi and Porche) have violated EU antitrust law by restricting the use of cleaner emission technologies in diesel cars. The Commission fined BMW and the Volkswagen Group a total of 875 million euros.
According to the Commission, car manufacturers often held technical meetings between June 25, 2009 and October 1, 2014 to study the development of technologies to eliminate dangerous nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel cars. However, at these meetings, automakers banded together to prevent competition in cleaning emissions better than required by law, even though they had the technology in place. The car manufacturers have resolved the uncertainties regarding their future market behavior to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by agreeing on AdBlue tank sizes and exchanging business-critical information.
Automakers have focused more on restricting technological development than on price fixing, market sharing or customer allocation. This is a new legal ground, as this is the first time the Commission has come to the conclusion that agreements on technological development constitute a cartel. Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said: “Today’s decision is about how legitimate cooperation went wrong.” She added: “Competition and innovation in the fight against pollution from cars are essential for Europe to to achieve our ambitious goals of the Green Deal. And this decision shows that we will not hesitate to take action against all forms of cartel behavior that endanger this goal. “
The Commission’s investigation into the matter began with Daimler filing an application under the 2006 Leniency Notice. As part of its early investigation into the alleged collusion between automakers, the commission carried out inspections at BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Audi plants in Germany in October 2017. The Commission then launched an in-depth investigation into the five automakers, also known as the “Circle of Five”, in September 2018. Finally, the Commission launched the dispute settlement process in February 2021, as all parties admitted their involvement in the cartel.
While the Commission fined the Volkswagen Group and BMW respectively € 502 million and € 373 million, under the 2006 leniency program, Daimler received full waiver to disclose the existence of the cartel to the Commission. Last year Germany’s highest court ruled in another diesel emissions scandal against Volkswagen.