PSA Groupe supplier, NSK, says it is “absolutely possible” it could reach an out of Court settlement with the French automaker, which is seeking US$577m from several bearings manufacturers involved in price fixing activities.
NSK, along with SKF, JTEKT, Schaeffler and NTN, have already been fined substantial amounts by the European Commission (EC), while the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) confirms Brussels had launched the action in respect of anti-competitive bearings practices in car, truck and automotive component manufacturers.
“The fact there is a cartel is a matter of fact established by the European Commission judgement,” an NSK spokesman told just-auto. [However] “Just because there is that decision does not mean to say we will pay or be liable to pay exactly what PSA demands of us.
“That [$577m] is a provisional amount. It is based on some percentages sometimes quoted in these cases of over-charged cartel damages claims – we don’t agree with that.
“PSA alleges purchases from NSK [were] around 10% of the total purchases from the eight bearings companies. We are doing the data at the moment to verify that.
“It is absolutely possible we can settle this out of Court. I imagine all of us would want to do that. Not only is it a more grown-up and productive way to do these things, it is cheaper and more cost effective. We will present our facts to PSA.”
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PSA confirmed to just-auto it has launched the separate action with the Competition Appeal Tribunal following the EC’s ‘condemnation’ of several automotive bearings suppliers for price fixing, insisting the Brussels fines do not allow for the “repair” of damage suffered by manufacturers.
NSK was at pains to point out however, it had fully co-operated with the EC in its investigations, resulting in a reduction of its fine, paid in 2014, to EUR62.4m, as a result of it being the first leniency applicant.
“It is no secret we agreed to settle with the Commission,” added the NSK spokesman. “We were very quick to go to the Commission and in return for that, we received a reduction in penalties.”
The EC bearings judgement was made in March, 2014, while the PSA claim is a civil affair being handled by the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London.
“In the Decision, the Commission found, from 4 April, 2004 until 25 July, 2011, the Defendants had infringed Article 101 TFEU and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement by participating in anticompetitive practices covering the entire EEA with a view of restricting price competition in the sector of bearings sold to car, truck and automotive component manufacturers,” noted a CAT statement.
PSA was not immediately available for comment regarding any out of Court settlement.