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European Commission fines car manufacturers €875 million for colluding on urea-SCR technology

12 July 2021

The European Commission has determined that Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen Group (Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche) breached EU antitrust rules by colluding on the development of urea-SCR systems for NOx control. The Commission has imposed a fine of €875,189,000 on BMW and Volkswagen. Daimler was not fined, as it revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission.

According to the Commission, all parties acknowledged their involvement in the cartel and agreed to settle the case. According to media reports, BMW has agreed to the settlement , while Volkswagen Group is considering whether to take legal action over the matter. The BMW and VW settlement amounts are €372,827,000 and €502,362,000, respectively.

The car manufactures held regular technical meetings to discuss the development of the urea-SCR technology, the Commission said. During these meetings, and for over five years, the car manufacturers “colluded to avoid competition on cleaning better than what is required by law despite the relevant technology being available”.

More specifically, Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen Group reached an agreement on urea (AdBlue) tank sizes and ranges and a common understanding on the average estimated AdBlue consumption. “They thereby removed the uncertainty about their future market conduct concerning NOx-emissions cleaning beyond and above the legal requirements (so called “over-fulfilment”) and AdBlue-refill ranges,” the Commission said.

The case represents the first ever EU cartel prohibition decision based solely on a restriction of technical development—and not on price fixing, market sharing or customer allocation.

The case (40178 Car Emissions) started in 2017, and in 2019, the Commission formally accused the carmakers of breaching EU antitrust rules.

The initial accusations were related to two emission technologies: urea-SCR and gasoline particulate filters (GPF). The Commission decided not to pursue further the GPF aspect of the case because of insufficient evidence.

Source: European Commission