A $1 billion fine has been given to Volkswagen and BMW by the European Commission for ‘colluding to curb the use of emissions cleaning technology’.
While the case is separate from the Dieselgate scandal, which surrounds the use of emissions cheating devices, the fine sets a precedent by extending the application of European competition law to technical-level talks between industry players.
The case centred around design standards for AdBlue, an additive used in diesel vehicles to cleanse nitrogen dioxide from exhaust gases.
“This is a first,” European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager told a news conference in Brussels.
“We have never had a cartel whose purpose was to restrict the use of novel technology.”
The settlement agreement means Volkswagen will pay 502 million euros and BMW will pay 373 million Euros.
“Today’s decision is about how legitimate technical cooperation went wrong. And we do not tolerate it when companies collude,” said Vestager.
The original scope of the investigation had been narrowed to ensure EU charges stuck.
Vestager said that all the parties had agreed to settle the case and “have acknowledged their role in this cartel”.
However, Volkswagen said it was considering legal action. It believes the penalty over technical talks about emissions technology set a questionable precedent.
“The Commission is entering new judicial territory because it is treating technical cooperation for the first time as an antitrust violation,” Volkswagen said, adding that the fines had been set even though no customers had suffered any harm.