Mitsubishi Electric, Hitachi Get $150 Million EU Cartel Fine

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  • Denso escaped fine by informing EU of cartel with three firms
  • Trio plotted to fix prices of car alternators, starters

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. agreed to pay European Union antitrust fines of a combined $150 million for fixing the prices of alternators and starters sold to car manufacturers.

Mitsubishi Electric will pay 110.9 million euros ($120.6 million) and Hitachi 26.9 million euros to settle the cartel probe, the European Commission said in an e-mailed press release. The companies admitted to illegally agreeing to set prices and allocate customers and projects for parts sold to European carmakers. The cartel ran from 2004 to 2010.

A third cartel member, Denso Corp., wasn’t fined because it informed the EU of the collaboration, the commission said. The three Japanese companies held meetings at their offices and in restaurants and were in regular phone contact to coordinate their reactions to carmakers’ calls for tender, deciding who would supply parts to which manufacturer and swapping business secrets.

Regulators across the world have been clamping down on car-parts manufacturers. In the U.S., companies including Bridgestone Corp. have agreed to pay more than $2 billion in fines. The EU fined makers of car and truck bearings 953 million euros in 2014. Last year it sent antitrust objections to companies that make car batteries. It also raided firms that make automotive exhaust systems in 2014.

"If European consumers are affected by a cartel, the commission will investigated it even if the cartel meetings took place outside Europe," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in the statement.

Hitachi said it and its automotive unit had introduced guidelines, training and regular audits to prevent another breach of antitrust rules. Denso said it received immunity from fines because it "completely eliminated the conduct" before the EU started its probe. Mitsubishi Electric didn’t immediately comment.