(Adds comment from Mercedes)
ZURICH, July 15 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
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)