Monday, September 11, 2017

Like Freight Forwarding and Shipping Cartels Road Haulage Truck Scandal is Likely to Rumble On

Antitrust Accusations Have a Habit of Coming Home to Roost
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – Any of our regular readers will know there is a litany of stories within our archive of duplicitous acts by ocean car carriers, air cargo transporters, freight forwarding agents, NVOCC's and container shipping lines acting as cartels and, usually after protracted legal wranglings, getting their just desserts. Now comes further confirmation that the illegal cooperation by a group of European truck manufacturers which cost them €2.9 billion in fines, and which we first reported over a year ago, is subject to an ongoing compensation class action on behalf of customers, a legal move driven by the Road Haulage Association (RHA).

Our article in April outlined how those who feel they may have lost money in the scandal could register their interest and sign up to the RHA’s action, membership of the organisation not being a necessary qualification. Now the RHA tells us that over 2,000 hauliers have now signed up to the action and a further 650 have expressed and registered their interest. Those that have already signed up account for circa 120,000 vehicles over 6 tonnes purchased or leased during the Cartel period.

The cartel operated for fourteen years between 1997 until 2011. During that time, 650,000 vehicles over 6 tonnes were either leased or sold to approximately 70,000 hauliers from 80,000 operating centres across the UK and the extent to which the relevant manufacturers (MAN, Daimler/Mercedes, Iveco, Volvo/Renault, and DAF) colluded on prices is evident from the European Commission’s decision.

The EU Commission ruled that the perpetrators colluded on prices and aligned price increases, discussed reducing rebates and over time truck configurators, containing detailed gross prices for all models and options, replaced the traditional gross list prices. Spreadsheets were exchanged, split by truck standard models for each producer. The exchange of configurators helped the comparison of own offers with those of competitors, and increased transparency of the market.

This comprehensive fraud meant individual makers knew what constituted its, and its ‘competitors’, standard models and what were ‘extras’, with discussions between the companies regarding the net prices for customers. Country specific market forecasts and delivery times were also exchanged.

When it came to Euro emission standards, the truck manufacturers agreed on the range for the additional charges for EURO III standard compliant trucks, and agreed not to introduce them until compulsory to do so. They further exchanged information on the additional cost of complying with the EURO IV emissions standards and meetings involving representatives of the German subsidiaries continued the discussions on price increases and the price increases for EURO IV and V standards.