The OFT has issued a Statement of Objections against the organisations, which now have an opportunity to respond to the allegations. If found guilty the manufacturer and the dealers are likely to face substantial fines.
The case comprises five separate alleged infringements that took place at different periods between March 2007 and January 2010. Each alleged infringement involved two or three dealers. The OFT’s provisional finding is that Mercedes-Benz was also involved in two of the alleged infringements.
The precise content of the arrangements differs among the five alleged infringements but all contain, to varying degrees, at least some element of market sharing, price coordination and/or exchange of commercially sensitive information. Three of the alleged infringements concern vans and two concern trucks.
The evidence also suggests that, in respect of two of the alleged infringements, Mercedes-Benz helped to facilitate or consolidate the arrangements amongst the dealers.
Ali Nikpay, OFT senior director of cartels, said: ‘Based on the evidence currently before us, we have reason to believe that these dealers co-operated to limit competition in their areas.
‘This case, which involves dealers who are mainly active in areas within the North of England and parts of Wales and Scotland, shows the OFT’s commitment to pursuing allegations of serious competition law infringements irrespective of the size of the companies involved or the geographic scope of the case.
‘These are the OFT’s provisional findings only. All parties will now have a full opportunity to respond to our statement before we decide whether competition law has in fact been infringed.’
The dealers implicated are: Ciceley Commercials Limited and its ultimate parent Ciceley Limited; Enza Motors Limited, its parent Enza Holdings Limited and its ultimate parent Enza Group Limited; H & L Garages Limited and its parent Dusted Powder Limited; Northside Truck & Van Limited and its ultimate parent S.A.H. Limited; and Road Range Limited.
A Statement of Objections gives notice of a proposed infringement decision under the Competition Act 1998 to the parties involved. The parties then have the opportunity to make written and oral representations in response to the case set out by the OFT.