OFT in driving seat after Mercedes flout competition regulations

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has found itself firmly in the driving seat, having imposed fines totalling £2.6million on Mercedes-Benz and three of its commercial vehicle dealers, after the German giant admitted breaking competition law.

Despite failing to provide specific details of the infringements, Mercedes-Benz were found guilty of three separate offences relating to market sharing, price co-ordination and the exchange of commercially sensitive information.

The infringements occurred between 2008 and 2010 in dealers active in Wales, Scotland and the North of England. The conduct, products and duration of the infringements varied from case to case, and not every party was guilty of flouting all three regulations.

The fines applied are as follows, including a 15 per cent reduction on the fine to reflect Mercedes’ admission and co-operation with the case:

  • Mercedes-Benz are to pay a total of £1,492,646;
  • Ciceley Commercials and its parent company Ciceley Ltd to pay £659,675;
  • Enza Motors and its parent Enza Holdings to pay £347,198;
  • Road Range liable to the tune of £115,774.

A statement from OFT Senior Director of Cartels, Ali Nikpay, read: “These fines send a clear message to every company operating in the commercial vehicles market. The OFT are prepared to impose firm penalties against any companies found guilty of attempting to collude or deny customers the benefit of fair competition, irrespective of the firm’s size or geographic location.

“This case shows the OFT can and will uncover evidence of cartels, even where those businesses involved do not come forward themselves.”

There was also a fourth Mercedes-Benz dealer involved in the investigation; however, Northside Truck & Van Ltd escaped a fine, despite admitting to an infringement of competition law, as it co-operated fully with the OFT investigation from the off.

A spokesman for Mercedes-Benz, said: “The settlement reached with the OFT draws the investigation into this matter to a close. We take all of our responsibilities under competition law seriously and have taken appropriate steps to ensure all Mercedes-Benz employees comply fully in the future.”

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