A fine of €7.6m has been assessed upon companies SD autocentrs, Ripo autocentrs, Møller Auto Krasta, Møller Auto Ventspils, Møller Auto Latvia and Møller Auto Import, the KP announced Tuesday.
One company is said to have been granted amnesty for coming forward and providing information that allowed the KP to discover the violation of fair trade and competition laws.
The dealership regularly informed each other of their plans for each procurement tender, asking the others not to take part, or at least not take part competitively.
Automobile importer and wholesaler Møller auto import knew of the arrangement and did not object to the current market division. It is alleged to have been the facilitator and supporter of the cartel, working as a mediator among the information exchange.
The KP points out that the scope of clients affected by the case could be enormous, having overpaid due to the cartel’s activity, as the VW brand is popular here and the violations have been ongoing for many years.
To gather evidence the KP looked at procurements and correspondence about them organized by private firms, state agencies, local governments, schools, pensioners’ homes and interior ministry structures.
The KP urges customers to file cases against the dealerships demanding compensation for the losses incurred.
The participants in the cartel may also have communicated with purchasers, thus there is suspicion that the procurement commission members could have lobbied for specific bidders.
Meanwhile Møller group companies object to the decision and vow to appeal the KP ruling and fine. “As these companies have not delayed or limited competition and VW buyers have in no way been done any material harm, then the KP’s description of this longstanding situation cannot be construed as violation of competition laws.”
The decision is applied to the Møller group’s activities between 2007 and 2011, whereas since then significant changes have been made to the dealerships’ business.