Surprise investigation of truck companies

Brussels, Belgium: European Commission officials last month launched dawn raids in several EU member states on a number of major truck manufacturing company offices. The raids were as part of an investigation into possible breaches of EU competition rules prohibiting cartels, restrictive business practices and/or the abuse of a dominant market position.

Officials from relevant national competition authorities acompanied Commission officials carrying out the investigations. In September 2010, the UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) opened an inquiry into an alleged cartel among commercial vehicle manufacturers. The two investigations appear to be separate although the competition authorities are likely to be co-operating.

On 25 January 2011, the OFT issued a press release seeking information relating to its investigation into the suspected price-fixing between UK truck manufacturers. Parallel criminal and civil investigations into the alleged cartel activity were launched in September 2010. The OFT requests anyone with information to contact a dedicated ‘cartel hotline’ and is offering an award of up to £100,000 under its informant rewards programme. The UK is one of the few competition authorities in the world which has adopted an information reward system of this type. The OFT also refers to its leniency policy, under which individual informants who have been directly involved in the cartel may be granted immunity from civil and criminal sanctions.