The European Commission claimed recently that Daimler, Volkswagen, and Bayerische Motoren Werke, or BMW colluded to hold to back technology that would have improved the cleaning of nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel passenger cars. According to the commission, the companies colluded over the course of five years to avoid competing to reduce emissions beyond what was currently required by law.
Between the two companies, Volkswagen was fined 502.3 million euros and BMW was fined 372.8 million euros. Evidently, Daimler was not fined, although the European Commission stated it would have been fined 727 million euros had it not disclosed the collusion to the commission. In many ways, this is a first for the European Commission, as they are prosecuting and fining companies in violation of antitrust laws, based on technical cooperation. According to one Commission spokesperson, “It is the first time the commission has punished companies for anti-competitive conduct for the sole reason that such conduct restricted technical development. To a certain extent, this makes it a new type of enforcement practice”.
Over the course of five years, the three companies agreed not to compete with each other, by using a technology called AdBlue which lowers nitrogen oxide emission. Although a BMW spokesperson has stated, “from the start of the antitrust proceedings that it considered the allegations made at that time to be exaggerated and unjustified”. Volkswagen and BMW are reportedly considering appealing the commission’s decision.
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