Daimler, VW, BMW probe in China driven by leniency application

02 December 2019 00:00 by Yonnex Li

A probe of German carmakers Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW by China's antitrust regulator over possible collusion in emissions controls was driven by a leniency application filed with the authority, MLex has learned.

The effort to seek leniency by the applicant was global, meaning that similar applications were also made to other competition authorities, it is understood.

While the State Administration for Market Regulation, or SAMR, doesn't publicly disclose information relating to leniency applicants, Daimler first disclosed in October 2017 that it had made a leniency application to the European Commission relating to the matter.

SAMR officials attached "great attention" to the case since the suspected collusion was exposed, it is said.

"We are aware of ongoing investigations by SAMR and Daimler is cooperating fully with the authority," the company said in an e-mailed statement to MLex. It declined to specify whether it has also sought leniency from SAMR.

The Chinese regulator officially started an investigation early this year, months after the European Commission formally opened a probe in September 2018 into a possible cartel among Daimler, VW and BMW to limit innovation related to vehicle exhaust technology.

Then in April, the EU regulator issued statements of objections to the carmakers for restricting competition in the “development of technology to clean the emissions of petrol and diesel passenger cars".

The Chinese investigation is still ongoing.

Article 46 of China's Antimonopoly Law provides the general rules on the country's leniency program.

"If the business management, on its own initiative, reports to the authority… about the monopoly agreement reached, and provides material evidence, the said authority may, at its discretion, mitigate, or exempt the undertaking from, punishment," the provision reads.

SAMR's interim regulations on the prohibition of anticompetitive agreements further stipulates that the first leniency applicant may receive a fine reduction of 80 percent or more; the second 30-50 percent;and the third 20-30 percent. The regulations only came into effect in September.

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