The Federal German Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) announced June 24 that it has fined five producers of automotive acoustic parts a total of 75 million euros ($83.6 million) for having entered into price fixing arrangements.
The companies make some plastic parts, including parcel shelves, along with carpet and floor mats.
The Autoneum Germany subsidiary in Rossdorf of the Swiss company Autoneum (formerly Rieter Automotive), said June 24 it had been fined 29.5 million euros ($32.8 million) by Bundeskartellamt. Others fined are Carcoustics International in Leverkusen, Greiner Perfoam in Enns (Austria), Ideal Automotive in Burgebrach, and International Automotive Components Group's plant in Düsseldorf.
Although a sixth company, Johann Borgers, was also involved in the price fixing, the cartel office did not issue any fines because it was the first of the companies to cooperate with the investigation. All of the accused companies co-operated with Bundeskartellamt, as otherwise the fines applied would have been higher.
Bundeskartellamt President Andreas Mundt said the companies had “agreed on and coordinated prices in their bids for tenders and orders placed by car manufacturers at least from 2005 to 2013, by agreeing not to target the existing business and follow-on orders of their competitors.”
Mundt revealed that the agreements had covered for example “minimum price levels, passing on of raw material price increase, discounts, tool cost compensation and contract escalation clauses."
The parts involved were acoustic dampening components such as sound-deadening flooring, car mats, parcel shelves, trunk trim, textile wheel housing shells, engine compartment & dashboard insulation and front & trunk shock absorbers.
One of the companies, Greiner Perfoam, makes various polyurethane sandwich constructions, as well as polypropylene/glass thermoformed to non-woven decoration for parcel shelves and thermoformed lightweight PU or flexible foam to non-woven material for engine compartment acoustic insulation.
Bundeskartellamt says the fines were the first to be applied based on triggering of its anonymous electronic whistle-blowing system, first installed in 2012, by someone with inside knowledge of the price fixing arrangements. Once Bundeskartellamt was convinced of the reliability of the tip-off, it proceeded with “dawn raids” on the accused companies in 2013.
It says most of the fines are not yet final and can therefore be appealed in the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court, but that a settlement to end all proceedings has in fact been agreed with all of the fined companies. But it points out that “investigations against another company are still ongoing.”