BELGIUM: EU court cuts antitrust fine against DaimlerChrysler

By just-auto.com editorial team | 15 September 2005

AP reports that the European Union's Court of Justice has reduced an antitrust fine against DaimlerChrysler AG to €9.8 million from €71.8 million, annulling a decision by EU regulators that it violated competition rules in Germany and Spain.

The EU judges, however, upheld a decision on DaimlerChrysler's conduct in Belgium, where they said the company participated "in an anti-price-slashing agreement with the Belgian dealers," the AP report said.

The European Commission found DaimlerChrysler guilty in 2001 of infringing EU rules by preventing cross-border sales of the Mercedes-Benz brand, restricting price competition between dealers.

The EU court said, however, that under EU competition rules DaimlerChrysler could not be found guilty in Germany because it acted alone there.

The Commission had considered German dealers independent. Under EU rules, two companies have to coordinate "anticompetitive conduct" for a cartel violation to occur, the court ruled.

The Court in this case scrapped the Commission's initial fine of €47.025 million.

In Spain, the EU court said DaimlerChrysler followed local law by forcing leasers to link each car with a contracted customer. The Commission had argued that this prevented local dealers from stocking up on Mercedes vehicles and created an artificial shortage.

But the court said the Spanish law was "not contrary" to any EU law and overturned the €15 million fine.

Thursday's ruling follows earlier EU court decisions to reduce fines against car companies, AP said.

Volkswagen AG had its antitrust fine reduced in 2003, from more than €100 million to €90 million.