Ten million vehicles affected by the “car manufacturer cartel” whose owners can claim 10% of the purchase price
The National Commission for Markets and Competition (hereinafter, “CNMC”) recognized in 2015 that during the years 2006 and 2013 in Spain up to 23 car brands constituted a cartel for the exchange of information in order to increase prices. The Supreme Court for its part has declared the resolution of the CNMC in accordance with the Law, which opens the possibility for the victims to claim around 10% of the final price of the vehicle purchased during the period that the “car manufacturers cartel” lasted.
The “car manufacturer cartel” and the CNMC resolution
The “car manufacturer cartel” consisted of an agreement between manufacturers and importers of well-known brand cars for the exchange of strategic and commercial information in order to increase its economic benefits. This agreement covered 91% of the market share in the automotive sector, damaging around 10 million vehicles from companies and individuals, who paid between 2,000 and 9,000 euros more than their real cost for their vehicle.
The infringement committed by companies such as Citroën, Ford, General Motors, Peugeot , Seat , Toyota , Volvo , Volkswagen and 15 others strong> is contained in article 1 of Law 15/2007, of July 3, on the Defense of Competition, which prohibits any collective agreement, decision or recommendation, as well as concerted or consciously parallel practice, whose purpose or may compromise competition in all or part of the national market. The resolution sums it up like this:
“Although it is customary for the parties to an agreement for the exchange of strategic and sensitive information to conduct themselves with discretion, this Chamber of Competence understands that this file gathers sufficient probative and indicative elements that, through conduct coordinated between competing companies, such an exchange has taken place under reciprocal requirements between the participating companies, with the aim of consciously replacing the risks of competition with practical cooperation between them, reducing uncertainty about key elements of their commercial policies and with aptitude to determine its behavior in the market”.
Consequently, the CNMC has sanctioned the offending companies with a fine amounting to a total of 170 million euros for having shared confidential and strategic information in the areas of business management, after-sales and automobile marketing, thus causing an additional cost to car buyers who purchased their vehicle between February 2006 and July 2013.
More information: “Ruling in the Truck Cartel that triples the compensation previously granted“
Recent Supreme Court rulings on the “car manufacturer cartel”
The sanctions imposed by the CNMC have reached the Supreme Court, specifically its Third Administrative Litigation Chamber, which has dismissed the appeals filed by Renault España Comercial S.A., Automóviles Citroën Spain S.A. and Peugeot Spain S.A. against the judgments of the National Court that had declared the resolution of the Commission adjusted to the Law.
Recent Supreme Court rulings are intended to clarify whether the exchange of information on aspects other than prices or production quantities may constitute an infringement of competition and, if so , under what circumstances, for which it has interpreted article 1 and Fourth Additional Provision of Law 15/2007, on the Defense of Competition and article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
In the last Judgment of October 5, 2021, the Supreme Court, following the line of its judgments of April, May and June, confirms that such practices constitute an infringement sanctioned by the Competition Law. He sums it up like this:
“(…) the type of individualized, current, secret and periodic information exchanged on elements related to prices makes it possible to know the mutual commercial strategies of the brands and the conditions of the relevant distribution networks for the adoption of trade policies and suitable for reducing uncertainty and facilitating alignment. The exchange made possible the knowledge of fundamental elements in the definition of the competitive strategy of the brands and allowed an adjustment of their behavior in the market in a way that is incompatible with the rules of competition”.</em >
Claim for damages arising from the cartel
The aforementioned resolutions now allow natural and legal persons to claim, both individually and collectively, the return of the extra cost they assumed due to the “car manufacturer cartel”, for which It is only necessary to collect the supporting documentation of the purchase and price paid (invoices of purchase, rental, leasing or vehicle repairs, …) and the administrative documentation of the vehicle (Technical Sheet and Permit of Circulation.
Given the topicality of the matter, there are still no court rulings in this regard, and the first legal claims are being processed. However, it should be mentioned that the recent Judgments nº 508/ 2021 and no. 509/2021</ a>, both of April 5, 2021, from the Commercial Court of Cádiz, which deal with the “dealership cartel” have sentenced the Audi and Volkswagen dealerships to compensate an individual for €2,000.00 plus interest and costs for the purchase of a vehicle of €25,000.00 and another vehicle of €20,000.00, respectively.
Everything points to the fact that this criterion will be the one followed by the rest of the Courts and Tribunals when assessing the damage required by the “car manufacturers’ cartel”, thus allowing the victims request compensation that is valued at around 10% of the purchase price.
You may be interested in: “Expert law firm in the automotive industry “