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BRUSSELS: February 21, 2018. The European Commission (EC) has levied fines totaling €546 million on four maritime car carriers and three major car parts suppliers in separate anti-trust settlements.

Prompted by whistleblower MOL that has avoided a fine, the EC says CSAV, "K" Line, MOL, NYK and WWL-EUKOR participated in a cartel between October 2006 and September 2012 to carry new cars, trucks and other large vehicles on various routes between Europe and other parts of the world.

WWL ZeebruggeIn acknowledging their behavior, four carriers have agreed to pay fines totaling €395 million. WWL-EUKOR tops the list at €207.3 million followed by NYK with €141.8 million, "K" Line at €39.1 million and CSAV with €7.03 million.

In addition to frequent phone calls, sales managers from the five carriers coordinated their cartel by meeting at carrier offices or in bars, restaurants and other social events to coordinate prices, allocate customers and fix charges and surcharges to offset currency or oil prices fluctuations.

The carriers also agreed to not compete with each other's traditional business on certain routes, or with certain customers, by quoting artificially high prices on tenders - or not quoting at all.

Commenting on the fine WWL-EUKOR CEO Craig Jasienski said: "Whilst I deeply regret the outcome, we are pleased that the EC investigation has concluded. WWL group are (sic) committed to honest and fair business practices; this is an unfortunate part of our past and we must ensure it cannot occur again."

In a second decision, the EC found Bosch, NGK and operated a cartel to supply spark plugs to car manufacturers in the European Economic Area and fined Bosch and NGK €76 million. Denso was the whistleblower in this case and so avoided a penalty.

The EC reached a third settlement with TRW, Bosch and Continental relating to two cartels for the supply of hydraulic and electronic breaking systems. TRW received immunity for revealing the hydraulic cartel and Continental for the electronic one. Bosch was fined a total of €31.4 million for its involvement in both cartels and Continental was fined €44 million for participating in the hydraulic cartel.

Margrethe Vestager, EC head of Competition Policy noted: "The Commission has sanctioned several companies for colluding in the maritime transport of cars and the supply of car parts. By raising component prices or transport costs for cars, the cartels ultimately hurt European consumers and adversely impacted the competitiveness of the European automotive sector, which employs around 12 million people in the EU."

The EC says the cartel affected European car importers, final customers as well as European auto manufacturers.

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