By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, March 19 European Union antitrust
regulators fined German engineering group Schaeffler
IPO-SHF.F, Sweden's SKF and three Japanese car parts
makers a total 953.3 million euros ($1.3 billion) for taking
part in a ball bearings cartel.
The sanctions, announced on Wednesday, are the latest from
the European Commission which is investigating price-fixing of
more than 100 car parts by more than 70 companies in the auto
Regulators in the United States, Japan and Canada have also
fined several car parts makers in recent years for fixing prices
of products ranging from seatbelts, radiators and windshield
wipers to air-conditioning systems.
The EU antitrust authority said the cartel lasted for more
than seven years between April 2004 and July 2011 in Europe
where the ball bearings market is worth at least 2 billion euros
Schaeffler received the biggest fine, 370.5 million euros,
while SKF's was 315.1 million euros, the second-largest. Ball
bearings are used to reduce friction in products from aircraft
The fines for Japanese firms NTN, NSK and
NFC were 201.35 million euros, 62.4 million and 3.96 million
respectively. The five companies acknowledged taking part in the
cartel in return for a 10 percent cut in their penalties.
JTEKT escaped a sanction as it told the European
Commission about the cartel, prompting raids on the cartel
members by the regulator in November 2011.
"If left unchallenged, cartels for car parts might impair
the competitiveness of the automotive sector and artificially
raise the price paid by European consumers who buy cars,"
European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.
($1 = 0.7188 Euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Erica Billingham)