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THE European Commission (EC) has busted four car parts cartels, fining air conditioning and engine cooling component suppliers Behr, Calsonic, Denso, Panasonic, Sanden and Valeo a combined €155 million ($A218.5m).

All accused suppliers agreed to settle the case, in which they were found to have “coordinated prices or markets, and exchanged sensitive information, for the supply of climate control components and engine cooling components to certain car manufacturers” in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Behr, Denso and Valeo had operated a cartel between November 2005 and December 2009 for supplying components to BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen Group.

Another cartel, supplying compressors to Jaguar, Land Rover, Volkswagen Group and Volvo between November 2004 and October 2009 involved Denso, Sanden and Valeo.

Denso and Panasonic formed a cartel between May 2009 and October 2009 for the supply of electric compressors to the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Calsonic, Denso, Sanden and Valeo engaged in cartel activity at various times between October 2007 and July 2009 for the supply of HVAC components, radiators and fans for the Suzuki Swift and SX4.

Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said the decision “underlines that we do not accept cartels that affect the European market, wherever and however they may be organised”.

Not all companies involved were fined for all the cartels, with Denso escaping three cartel penalties and a total of €287m in fines by revealing their existence to the EC and Panasonic being let off to the tune of €200,000 by  apparently dobbing in co-conspirator Denso.

Behr, Calsonic, Denso, Sanden and Valeo all had their fines reduced in return for cooperating with the investigation.

The fines were calculated based on sales value achieved by cartel participants the geographic scope of the cartel and its duration of operation.

Companies and individuals in the EEA affected by these cartels are advised  by the EC to seek damages through the courts in their own countries.

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