OFT fines Mercedes and three dealers for infringing competition law
The OFT said the announcement covered three separate admitted infringements of competition law covering market sharing, price coordination or exchange of commercially sensitive information in relation to the distribution of Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles.
It added that two of the infringements relate to the distribution of vans involving Cicely and Northside between 15 January 2008 and 26 January 2010, and Cicely and Road Range between 1 February 2008 and 26 January 2010. The third involves the distribution of trucks between 8 December 2009 and 26 January 2010, involving Ciceley, Enza, Mercedes-Benz and Road Range.
A fourth dealer, Northside, which also admitted infringing competition law, is to avoid a fine, after being the first company to come forward after the investigation commenced to provide evidence of collusion in return for immunity from penalty under the OFT's leniency policy.
The dealers involved are mainly active in areas within the North of England and parts of Wales and Scotland.
Ali Nikpay, OFT senior director of Cartels, said: ‘These cases send a clear signal that the OFT will take firm action against companies that collude to deny customers the benefit of fair competition regardless of the size of the firms involved or geographic scope of the investigation.'
For Mercedes-Benz, the settlement figure, based on company turnover, is £1.49m.
In a statement, Mercedes-Benz UK said: ‘Mercedes-Benz regrets the incident and has learned a lot from it.
‘The company has strengthened its internal controls, and every member of staff participates in comprehensive and ongoing Integrity training programmes. The company and its staff have fully co-operated with the investigators over the past three years.
‘The settlement reached with the OFT draws the investigation into this matter to a close. Mercedes-Benz takes its responsibilities under competition law seriously and has taken all appropriate steps to ensure all its staff comply fully with the law.’
The fines include a 15% reduction to reflect the companies' admissions and agreement to a streamlined administrative procedure.