EU fines Mitsubishi Electric, Hitachi for car part cartel

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union regulators fined Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric and Hitachi Ltd 137.8 million euros ($150 million) on Wednesday for fixing prices of car parts.

For the past six years, antitrust regulators worldwide have cracked down on a long-time business model in which parts makers keep prices relatively high for new components they supply to car makers and then charge even more for the same components supplied as replacements to dealers and repair shops.

The European Commission said the cartel for alternators and starters operated between September 2004 and February 2010, when Mitsubishi Electric, Hitachi and Denso coordinated responses to tenders issued by car makers and also shared price details.

Mitsubishi Electric was fined 110.9 million euros while Hitachi’s sanction was 26.9 million euros. The firms admitted wrongdoing in return for a 10 percent cut in their fines.

World No. 2 car parts maker Denso avoided a fine as it alerted the European Commission to the existence of the cartel.

“Today’s decision sanctions three car part producers whose collusion affected component costs for a number of car manufacturers selling cars in Europe, and ultimately European consumers buying them,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

The EU watchdog is investigating possible cartels in car thermal systems, car lighting, seat belts and steering wheels, car exhaust systems and electrolytic capacitors, among others.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Alexander Smith