Four German car makers have been fined €875 million ($1billion) in a landmark case in which the European Union accused them of colluding over limiting the development of emission control systems.
Audi and Porsche illegally colluded to restrict competition “in the area of emission cleaning technology for diesel cars”, the EU alleged in a statement released on Thursday.
This case was unconnected to “dieselgate” scandal where Volkswagen admitted the rigging of diesel emissions tests in 11 million vehicles.
It is the first time that the European Commission has issued a fine over cooperation on technical elements, as opposed to price fixing or market sharing.
A fifth car maker, Daimler
which had disclosed the existence of the alleged cartel to the EC was granted immunity from fines.
All the car makers acknowledged their participation in the cartel and agreed to settle the case, the EC said.
EU antitrust commissioner Vice President Margrethe Vestager said that for over five years, the car manufacturers deliberately avoided competing on cleaning better than what was required by EU emission standards.
“And they did it despite the relevant technology being available. The law fixes minimum cleaning standards, which all producers have to respect. But it still leaves ample room for manufacturers to compete on doing better than the minimum required.”
Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen (which owns Audi and Porsche) were unavailable for comment.