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OFT pursues Mercedez Benz commercial vehicle investigation

Competition expert Miles Trower from national law firm TLT.

After a two and a half year competition investigation, the OFT has set out its case against Mercedes Benz and five of its commercial vehicle dealers (Cicely Commercials, Enza Motors, H&L Garages, Northside Truck & Van and Road Range) for alleged serious breaches of UK competition law.

The allegations, contained in a 'Statement of Objections' issued to the parties involved, relate to five suspected infringements - each involving two or three dealers - and concern market sharing, price fixing and/or the exchange of competitively sensitive information. In two instances, Mercedes Benz is suspected of coordinating the relevant anti-competitive behaviour.

Miles Trower, competition partner at national law firm TLT, comments:

 "While these provisional findings should not pre-judge the final outcome of this case, this latest development reflects the seriousness with which the OFT views these types of infringements generally, even where some of the businesses involved are small. The automotive sector is under considerable scrutiny at the moment. There has been an unprecedented number of global cartel investigations focusing on all levels of the automotive supply chain over the last two years. It is therefore vital that all businesses in the sector – large and small - have a clear understanding of how competition law applies to them as well as robust compliance procedures in place"

The affected parties will now have an opportunity to respond to the allegations set out in the Statement of Objections and make representations to the OFT. The OFT will then issue a final decision. In terms of ultimate penalties, these can range from heavy fines (a maximum of 10% of the group turnover of the businesses concerned) to the acceptance of commitments to refrain from further anti-competitive behaviour. Given the nature of the present allegations, if the final decision goes against the parties involved, substantial fines are more likely.

For more information please contact Miles Trower on 0117 917 7652, miles.trower@TLTsolicitors.com. Miles Trower is a partner and competition law expert. He is currently advising the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) on the cutting edge changes taking place in the motor industry surrounding the Block Exemption Regulation. Visit www.TLTsolicitors.com

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2012. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases; we cannot be held responsible for any action (or decision not to take action) made in reliance upon the content of this publication.

TLT LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England & Wales number OC 308658 whose registered office is at One Redcliff Street, Bristol BS1 6TP England. A list of members (all of whom are solicitors or lawyers) can be inspected by visiting the People section of this website. TLT LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 406297.

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