Truck cartel claim could reach £5bn

Commercial fleet operators who overpaid for trucks from firms that colluded in a price-fixing cartel could receive a combined total of £5 billion in compensation.

In July 2016, DAF, Daimler (Mercedes-Benz), Iveco, MAN and Volvo/Renault all admitted to having participated in a 14-year illegal price-fixing cartel, between 1997 and 2011.

Scania initially denied any wrongdoing but, following an investigation by the European Commission, was also found to have participated in the cartel.

Collectively, the truck manufacturers were fined more than €3.8 billion (£3.4bn) – the largest ever penalty imposed by the European Commission in this type of case.

In its next step towards getting compensation for thousands of UK truck operators who paid over the odds for trucks, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has now submitted its application to the Competition Appeal Tribunal to pursue its claim against the manufacturers.

If successful, the RHA says that UK operators could be reimbursed more than £6,000 for every vehicle of six tonnes and above they bought or leased between 1997 and 2011.

Operators are entitled to claim for the difference between what they paid for their trucks (new, second-hand or leased) and what they would have paid had the cartel not existed.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “We estimate the truck cartel will have impacted upon the buyers of 600,000 trucks that were bought in the UK between 1997 and 2011, amounting to a potential compensation claim of more than £5bn.

“On the same basis, we estimate operators in the rest of Europe bought 3.4 million trucks and could also be due compensation in excess of £25bn.”

The European Commission decision revealed that discussions between the companies in the cartel focused on two main topics.

Firstly, the truck producers discussed the “gross price list” increases they were planning for medium and heavy trucks and coordinated these with each other. These figures are the basis for pricing in the truck industry. The final price paid by buyers was then based on further adjustments, done at national and local level, to these gross list prices.

Secondly, they also discussed their response to increasingly strict European emissions standards, which have been progressively tightened over the years, reducing the acceptable limits for exhaust emissions from trucks.

The truck producers coordinated both on the pricing for the new technologies that were needed to meet the stricter standards and on when to introduce new technologies.

MAN revealed the cartel, and so received immunity from fines. Volvo/Renault, Daimler and Iveco also cooperated by providing evidence and so had their fines reduced.

Scania, the sixth and final manufacturer implicated in the price-fixing scandal, was fined more than €880 million (£790m) for its participation in the truck cartel.

Volvo/Renault, Daimler (Mercedes), Iveco and DAF – were collectively fined €2.93bn (£2.63bn) after admitting wrongdoing. Daimler was fined €1.08bn (£1bn), DAF €752m (£674m), Iveco €494m (£443m), and Volvo/Renault €670m (£600m).

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