European Commission Expands Tyre Industry Probe with Raids on Consultancy Firm

The European Commission has intensified its investigation into alleged price-fixing within the tyre industry, conducting unannounced inspections at a consultancy firm in two member states. This development follows a series of raids carried out earlier this year at the offices of major tyre manufacturers, including Michelin, Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear, Pirelli, and Nokian Tyres.

European Commission Expands Tyre Industry Probe with Raids on Consultancy Firm
June 18, 2024

In January 2024, the Commission launched its probe by targeting several leading tyre companies over suspicions of a price-fixing cartel. The recent raids on a consultancy firm on June 18, 2024, signal a continuation of the investigation, with the focus now broadening to include potential facilitators or advisors involved in the alleged anti-competitive practices.

The European Commission's actions reflect a comprehensive approach to unearthing possible collusion in the tyre sector. Companies found guilty of breaching EU cartel rules face severe penalties, including fines of up to 10% of their global turnover.

The initial phase of the investigation involved unannounced inspections at the premises of prominent tyre manufacturers. The Commission expressed concerns that these companies might have engaged in price coordination, potentially through public communications. While the tyre firms have cooperated with the authorities, they have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Michelin categorically denied any anti-competitive practices. Continental confirmed the inspections but refrained from further comment. Goodyear acknowledged the raids at its European sites, stating its full cooperation with the authorities but cautioning against early speculation. Nokian Tyres similarly confirmed the inspections and pledged cooperation while withholding comments on the investigation's outcome. Bridgestone and Pirelli did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Commission's decision to extend its inspections to a consultancy firm indicates that the investigation is progressing and expanding its scope. This move aims to scrutinise the roles of potential third-party advisors or consultants who may have facilitated or supported the suspected cartel activities among the tyre manufacturers.

As the investigation continues, the industry awaits further revelations from the Commission regarding any specific evidence uncovered. The scrutiny on consultancy firms underscores the Commission's determination to leave no stone unturned in its efforts to ensure fair competition in the market.

The Commission's rigorous enforcement of competition laws aims to maintain a level playing field and protect consumers from the adverse effects of cartels. The outcome of this investigation could have significant implications for the tyre industry and its associated sectors, potentially leading to substantial fines and stricter regulatory oversight.

It is important to note that the investigation is in its early stages, and no definitive conclusions have been reached regarding any company's involvement in price-fixing. The industry remains under scrutiny, with the Commission's actions serving as a reminder of the serious consequences of anti-competitive behaviour. As the probe deepens, all eyes will be on the findings and the potential ramifications for the companies and individuals involved.

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