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Car glass producers fined for market sharing cartel


December 23, 2014
By Carey Fredericks

Dec. 23, 2014, Brussels, Bel. – The European Commission has imposed fines, totalling €1,354,896.000 on
Asahi, Pilkington, Saint-Gobain and Soliver for illegal market sharing,
and exchange of commercially sensitive information regarding deliveries
of car glass in the EEA, in violation of the EC Treaty’s and the EEA
Agreement’s ban on cartels and restrictive business practices (Article
81 of the EC Treaty and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement).

Asahi, Pilkington and Saint-Gobain
are the three major players in Europe. Between early 1998 and early
2003 these companies discussed target prices, market sharing and
customer allocation in a series of meetings and other illicit contacts.
The Belgian company Soliver also took part in some of these discussions.
These four companies controlled about 90% of the glass used in the EEA
in new cars and for original branded replacement glass for cars at that
time, a market worth about €2 billion in the last full year of the
infringement. The Commission started the cartel investigation on its own
initiative following a tip-off from an anonymous source. The Commission
increased the fines on St Gobain by 60% because it was a repeat
offender. Asahi provided additional information to help expose the
infringement and its fine was reduced by 50% under the Leniency Notice.
These are the highest cartel fines Commission has ever imposed, both for
an individual company (€ 880 000 000 on Saint Gobain) and for a cartel
as a whole.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "These
companies cheated the car industry and car buyers for five years in a
market worth two billion euros in the last year of the cartel. The
overall fines are high because of the large market, the seriousness of
the case, and Saint-Gobain's earlier offences.
The Commission has imposed such high fines because it cannot and will
not tolerate such illegal behaviour. Management and shareholders of
companies that damage consumers and European industry by running cartels
must learn their lessons the hard way – if you cheat, you will get a
heavy fine.

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Car glass is used in the automotive
industry and comes in various shapes and sizes such as windscreens,
sidelights (windows for front and back doors), backlights (rear windows)
and sunroofs. The main customers of the car glass
suppliers are car manufacturers who assemble the car glass pieces into
the cars they produce. Some of the car glass deliveries are stored for
replacement as original branded spare parts.

The Commission started this
investigation on its own initiative on the basis of reliable information
provided by an anonymous informant. The information prompted the
Commission to carry out surprise inspections in 2005 at several sites of
car glass producers in Europe.

After the inspections, the
Japanese Asahi Glass Co. and its European subsidiary AGC Flat Glass
Europe (formerly 'Glaverbel) filed an application under the 2002
Leniency Notice. Under the Leniency Notice, companies can benefit from a
reduction of up to 100% if they enhance the Commission's ability to
discover secret cartels. Asahi/Glaverbel cooperated fully with the
Commission and provided additional
information to help to expose the infringement and its fine was reduced by 50%.

The cartel

Asahi, Pilkington,
Saint-Gobain and Soliver held regular discussions with a view to
allocating between themselves car glass supplies to car manufacturers in
response to their tenders and to keeping the market shares of each
individual car glass supplier as stable as possible at the European
level.

The evidence uncovered by the Commission
revealed several meetings at airports and hotels in different European
cities (for example in Frankfurt, Paris and at Charles de Gaulle (Paris)
and Zaventem (Brussels) airport hotels) during which Asahi, Pilkington,
Saint-Gobain and Soliver discussed the allocation of car glass to be
supplied for upcoming car models to be produced and renegotiations of
on-going contracts, and exchanged commercially lucrative and
confidential information.

Fines

The fines in this case are based on the 2006 Guidelines on Fines.
Under these Guidelines, fines reflect the overall economic significance
of the infringement as well as the share of each company involved.

The cartel constitutes a very serious
infringement of EC Treaty antitrust rules. In setting the fines, the
Commission took into account the respective affected sales of the
companies involved as well as the combined market share and the
geographical scope of the cartel agreements.

The Commission increased the fines for St
Gobain by 60% because it was a repeat offender, having already been
fined for cartel activities in previous Commission decisions in 1988 for
Flat Glass Benelux  and 1984 for Flat Glass Italy.


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