The called “car cartel”, uncovered by the Spanish National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC), operated effectively in Spain between February 2006 and July 2013 and was made up of more than twenty importers or marketers of the main car brands (approx. 91% of the car market share in Spain) as well as two consultancy firms acting as facilitating companies.
The CNMC punished all these companies individually, with some exceptions, by virtue of their participation in the different unlawful actions, all of which referred to non-compliance with the prohibition of collusive practices enacted by the Competition Act and the Founding Treaty of the EU.
As a result of its investigation, the CNMC demonstrated that the car cartel carried out three types of anti-competitive actions that included the exchange of commercially sensitive information on: 1. The conditions of marketing and customer loyalty policies and strategies. All of this with the aim of eliminating the uncertainty provided by competition, and securing their margins, with the consequent economic detriment to buyers.
The brands which to a greater or lesser extent formed part of the cartel were Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Citroen, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Lancia, Land Rover, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Saab, Seat, Skoda, Volkswagen, Toyota, Volvo, Dacia, Mini, Smart.
The penalties imposed by the CNMC were upheld in the contentious administrative courts and the Supreme Court is dismissing all the appeals lodged by the brands.
It has been established that these brands acted as a real organized cartel with the clear intention of knowing how the competition acted and thus eliminating any uncertainty in their commercial policies. The cartel, moreover, operated with a manifest intention to conceal it, even knowing the illegality of its actions, as has been demonstrated in view of some e-mails between its members and other evidence provided by the CNMC. To this end, they had the instrumental help of the consultancy firms that oversaw organizing the meetings, marking the cartel’s actions, communication between them, etc.
The consequences of the existence of the cartel, which practically monopolized the car market during the indicated period, was an additional profit of between 10-15% for all cartel members. This profit therefore entailed a direct economic loss for all those who purchased a vehicle of the brands belonging to the cartel, be they consumers, professionals, or companies, and is estimated to be approximately 10-15% of the purchase price of the vehicle.
As in other cartel cases, the issue came to light because someone “sang”. That someone was Seat, which decided to confess to the CNMC that it belonged to the cartel in exchange for a request for “leniency”. Seat and the Volkswagen Group to which it belongs, although they were sanctioned, were exempted from the payment of these sanctions, given the amounts, their confession meant an important “saving”.
In the case of Seat and the VW Group (VW, Audi, Skoda), even though they were exonerated from paying the fines, they were exempted from paying them.
What can I do if I think I am affected?
If you bought a car between 2006 and 2013 from one of the brands listed above, it is very likely that you will be entitled to claim compensation. If you have any doubts, you can contact Figueras legal. We have a department specialised in this type of claims and will study your case individually to see if the claim is appropriate and if so, the amount of this, all backed by a prior legal study accompanied by the corresponding expert report.
Do not hesitate to consult us about this matter and your rights, we will be happy to help you: firstname.lastname@example.org