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EU set to fine seatbelt, airbag cartel in coming weeks

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The EU is set to fine a group of car seatbelt and airbag makers in the coming weeks, three people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday, the latest regulatory crackdown on price-fixing in the sector.

The decision by the European Commission follows a six-year-long investigation which began with dawn raids in June 2011. Regulators worldwide are cracking down on cartels, levying billions of dollars in fines and even putting some executives in jail.

The EU competition enforcer, which has not named the raided companies, declined to comment.

World No. 1 airbag and seatbelt maker Autoliv, which said in 2011 that two of its German factories were targeted, also declined comment.

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The company said in a regulatory filing earlier this year it had accrued 8.3 million euros in the period ended Sept. 30 for a “discrete portion” of the Commission’s investigation.

TRW Automotive, acquired by German peer ZF  last year, said in a February 2015 regulatory filing that the EU investigation could result in significant penalties. ZF declined to comment on Wednesday.

Several Japanese peers are likely to be involved in the cartel, one of the sources said, declining to provide details. All the companies admitted wrongdoing in return for a 10 percent cut in their penalties, the sources said.

Among recent investigations in the auto industry, the Commission has handed down a record 3.81 billion euro fine to a group of truck makers. Other cases in the pipeline involve electronic brakes and electrolytic capacitors.

Last month it raided German carmakers Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW  on suspicion of conspiring to fix prices in diesel and other technologies, putting them at risk of fines up to 10 percent of their turnover if found guilty of wrongdoing.

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