Opel and Mercedes-Benz raided over 'price-fixing'

European Commission competition inspectors have carried out dawn raids on the offices of the German car makers Mercedes-Benz and Opel in connection with allegations of price- and distribution-fixing, EU officials revealed yesterday.

Brussels sources warned that both companies could be stripped of their exemptions from EU rules that ban exclusive distribution arrangements if inquiries produce evidence of illegality.

The raids followed complaints from consumers who were repeatedly blocked when they tried to purchase the models they wanted in countries where they can be bought most cheaply. It is understood that complaints allege breaches of the EU's 1995 ruling on car distribution. This permits restrictive dealership and servicing agreements between manufacturers and sales outlets but only subject to strict conditions aimed at giving car buyers more opportunity to shop around to take advantage of the single European market.

EU competition Commissioner Karel van Miert renewed the car industry's longstanding "group exemption" from normal competition rules in June 1995 but insisted on giving dealers greater independence from manufacturers and specifically banned any impediments to the right of consumers to purchase a car anywhere in the Community.

News of the crackdown on Opel and Mercedes came as the Commission complained that so-called parallel trade in cars, which occurs when nationals of one EU country opt to buy a vehicle in a cheaper country, is being blocked in Belgium, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

Price comparisons of the EU's 75 best-selling models released by the Commission yesterday shows a gap of more than 20 per cent between the lowest and highest prices for 40 cars. On 1 November list prices varied most for Fiat, Ford, Opel, Citroen, Volkswagen, Nissan and Mitsubishi cars. And prices for some small cars varied by more than 30 per cent.

Britain has joined the ranks of the most expensive member states in which to buy a car according to the survey. The Commission says this is due to price hikes by manufacturers and the rise in sterling's value.

Fifteen of the 75 models looked at were most expensive in the UK including the Opel Corsa and Astra, the Peugeot 106 and 306, and the Renault Megane. Britain was cheapest for only three models: the BMW 730i and Volvo's 850 and 960.

Buyers will find no bargains in Germany or France which had the highest list prices in the EU. Both countres each had 30 of the dearest models. By contrast, the Netherlands and Portugal are the cheapest countries for cars.

The list price for an Opel Astra in Britain was 32.8 percentage points higher than for the equivalent in Portugal. The difference is attributed to exchange rate-induced price increases.

The Commission's six-monthly car price surveys aim to highlight the opportunities for parallel trade and to pressurise car makers into creating a genuine single market.

Volkswagen and its subsidiary Audi are already under investigation for alleged malpractice in relation to pricing and distribution.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam