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© dimitry romanchuck dreamstime.com Business | July 11, 2013

Producers of wire harnesses fined EUR 141 million

The European Commission has fined the car parts suppliers Sumitomo, Yazaki, Furukawa, S-Y Systems Technologies (SYS) and Leoni a total of EUR 141'791'000 for operating five cartels for the supply of wire harnesses to Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Renault.

Wire harnesses conduct electricity in cars, for instance to start the motor, to open the window or to switch the air-conditioner on. They are often described as the 'central nervous system' of the car. The cartels covered the whole European Economic Area (EEA).

Sumitomo was not fined for any of the five cartels as it benefited from immunity under the Commission's 2006 Leniency Notice for revealing the existence of the cartels to the Commission. All other companies received reductions of their fines for their cooperation in the investigation under the Commission's leniency programme. Since the companies agreed to settle the case with the Commission, their fines were further reduced by 10%.

Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy, Joaquín Almunia, said: “The cartelised car parts were sold to Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Renault including for cars produced in Europe. Today's decision shows the first results in the Commission's wider investigative effort to detect and sanction any illegal cartels in markets for car parts. Such cartels may harm the competitiveness of the automotive industry and artificially inflate prices for final buyers of cars".

The companies coordinated the prices and allocation of supplies of wire harnesses to the respective car manufacturers. The cartel contacts took place both in Japan and in the EEA:

- For Toyota and Honda, the participants rigged a series of tenders for the supply of wire harnesses, including all tenders for supplies to the European manufacturing facilities published during the cartel period.

- For Nissan and Renault, the participants rigged – or attempted to rig – single tendering procedures for some individual models.

Sumitomo, Yazaki, Furukawa, SYS and Leoni were involved in one or several of the infringements. The duration of the cartels varied. The below table provides an overview of the overall duration and participants for each of the infringements (duration for individual participants in each of the infringement may vary):

InfringementParticipantsDuration
ToyotaSumitomo, Yazaki and Furukawa6 March 2000 to 5 August 2009
HondaSumitomo, Yazaki and Furukawa5 March 2001 to 7 September 2009
NissanSumitomo and Yazaki14 September 2006 to 16 November 2006
Renault ISumitomo and SYS28 September 2004 to 13 March 2006
Renault IISumitomo, SYS and Leoni5 May 2009 to 22 December 2009

The total fine imposed on each of the undertakings for their participation in the respective infringements is as follows:

Yazaki – EUR 125'341'000 for its involvement in the Toyota, Honda and Nissan infringements,
Furukawa - EUR 4'015'000 for its involvement in the Toyota and Honda infringements,
SYS – EUR 11'057'000 for its involvement in the two Renault infringements and
Leoni – EUR 1'378'000 for its involvement in the Renault II infringement.

Fines

In setting the level of fines, the Commission took into account the companies' sales of the products concerned in the EEA, the very serious nature of the infringement, its geographic scope and its duration.

Sumitomo received full immunity for revealing the existence of the cartel and thereby avoided a fine of EUR 291'638'000 for its participation in all five infringements.

All parties benefited from reductions under the 2006 Leniency Notice. Furukawa, Yazaki, SYS and Leoni received reductions of fines ranging from 20 to 50% for their cooperation. The reductions reflect the timing of their cooperation and the extent to which the evidence they provided helped the Commission to prove the respective cartels.

Moreover, under the Commission's 2008 Settlement Notice, the Commission reduced the fines imposed by 10% as the companies concerned acknowledged their participation in the cartel and their liability in this respect.

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