Brussels — The European Commission has colluded with German automakers Volkswagen and BMW on Thursday to curb the use of the emission purification technology they have developed for a total of € 875 million ($ 1 billion). I was fined.
Apart from the so-called “diesel gate” scandal over software designed to cheat vehicle emissions testing, the case extends the application of European competition law to technical level discussions among industry players. I set a precedent.
In this case, the talks held 10 years ago focused on the design criteria for AdBlue, an additive used to purify nitrogen oxides from the exhaust fumes produced by diesel vehicles.
“This is the first time,” Marguerite Vestager, head of antitrust law in the European Union, said at a press conference in Brussels. “No cartel has ever aimed to limit the use of new technologies.”
Under the settlement, Volkswagen will pay a fine of € 502 million and BMW will pay a fine of € 373 million. Daimler, also part of the cartel, was not fined after revealing its existence.
Vestager said German automakers, including VW units Audi and Porsche, had the technology to reduce more harmful emissions than required by EU law, but avoided competing to do so. ..
“Therefore, today’s decision is about how unsuccessful legal technical cooperation was, and when companies collude, we don’t tolerate it,” said Vestager.
The EU narrowed the initial scope of the investigation to confirm that the accusations were stalled.
Is technical collusion possible?
Mr Vestager said all parties agreed to settle the proceedings and “acknowledged their role in this cartel.”
But Volkswagen said the penalties for technical negotiations on emission technology set a questionable precedent and said it was considering whether to take legal action.
“The Commission is entering a new judicial territory because it is the first to treat technical cooperation as a violation of antitrust law,” Volkswagen added, adding that fines were imposed even if it did not harm customers. It was.
The gist of automakers’ dissatisfaction is summarized as to whether setting common technical standards is anti-competitive behavior or, in fact, makes it easier for the industry as a whole to adopt new technologies.
The European Commission said in its 2019 tariff that the use of urea-based additives was inconvenient as German automakers colluded to limit the size of AdBlue tanks between 2006 and 2014. It was.
BMW said in its defense that it was no longer suspected of using an illegal “defeat device” to fool emissions tests.
“This emphasizes that the BMW Group has never filed an allegation of illegal operation of its emissions control system,” BMW said in a statement.
In the diesel gate scandal, VW approved the use of such defeat devices, bringing more than € 32 billion ($ 38 billion) in vehicle repairs, fines and legal costs to Wolfsburg-based automakers.
Marin Strauss and Alexander Huebner