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Spanish Competition Authority Initiates Proceedings Against 126 Companies active in Motor Vehicle Distribution

    • Competition, EU and Trade - Competition e-briefings

    06-09-2013

    On 4 September, the Spanish Competition Commission (“SCC”) made public its decision to initiate seven separate infringement proceedings against 126 companies active in the motor vehicle distribution sector for having infringed Article 1 of the Spanish Competition Act (“SCA”), which mirrors Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This is the first case in which the SCC has commenced infringement proceedings against such a large number of companies on the same date.

    The SCC had conducted dawn raids at the premises of several of the companies involved in the proceedings during June and July 2013. Six of the proceedings commenced today are brought against individual  car manufacturers / wholesalers and a number of their dealers. The manufacturers / wholesalers named are VW/Audi, Nissan, Toyota, Land Rover, Hyundai and OPEL. It is highly likely that the SCC will accuse the companies of resale price maintenance while classifying the infringement as a horizontal restraint among competitors (in line with the SCC’s approach in the Suzuki and Honda motorcycles cases decided last year), which may have a significant impact on the scale of  the fines that might be imposed.

    The seventh case is against the manufacturers / wholesalers collectively for having exchanged confidential information, which could potentially be interpreted as a cartel infringement.

    Under the SCA the maximum delay period for deciding infringement proceedings is 18 months but in practice they usually last 24 months as the SCC uses the possibility granted in the SCA to ’stop the clock’ in certain cases.

    As from October 2013, the new Spanish Markets and Competition Commission (SMCC), whose internal organization regulation was approved by the Spanish Government last Friday, will replace the SCC. The SMCC will merge seven regulatory bodies including the energy and telecoms agencies. It remains uncertain what the impact will be on maximum time periods for the adoption of final infringement decisions.

    The priorities of the new SMCC , including the intensity of enforcement activity, remain unclear. Fines imposed by the SCC during the first half of 2013 amount to approximately €150 million, in line with fines imposed in 2012 which amounted to €365 million.

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