UPDATE 2-Swiss watchdog probes car leasing firms for alleged price-fixing

Tue Jul 15, 2014 9:26am EDT

(Adds comment from Mercedes)

ZURICH, July 15 (Reuters) - Switzerland's antitrust regulator said it had searched the offices of various car leasing firms on suspicion of price-fixing.

"The Competition Commission has evidence that financing companies belonging to the manufacturers, so-called captive banks, exchanged sensitive information on leasing rates and thus fixed prices," the body said in a statement on Tuesday.

The firms discussed interest rates, conditions, commissions paid and other information, it said.

The body said it is investigating Ford Credit Switzerland, GMAC Suisse SA, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Schweiz, BMW Finanzdienstleistungen Schweiz, Amag Leasing AG, Fidis Finance Schweiz, Multilease, PSA Finance Suisse and RCI Finance.

A spokesman for BMW said the German carmaker is examining the claims.

A spokesman for Amag said that firm did not compete directly or indirectly with the other leasing firms because leasing firms concentrate on their own brands.

A spokesman for RCI said that the company did not feel it was at fault, but that it is cooperating with the investigation. Spokespeople for GMAC and Fidis said their firms are cooperating fully with the probe, but would not elaborate because the investigation is ongoing.

Spokespeople for Ford and Mercedes Benz declined to comment. Multilease and PSA were not immediately available for comment.

Automobile leasing makes for more than one-third of the 23.2 billion Swiss franc ($25.99 billion) leasing market, according to a study compiled by Swiss bank Credit Suisse. ($1 = 0.8925 Swiss Francs) (Reporting By Katharina Bart. Additional reporting by Andreas Cremer in Berlin and Alice Baghdjian in Zurich; Editing by John Stonestreet and Louise Heavens)

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