Mercedes-Benz and three of its commercial vehicle dealers – Ciceley, Road Range and Enza - have admitted infringing competition law and agreed to pay settlements totalling £2.6m, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has revealed.

A fourth dealer, Northside, has also admitted infringing competition law but will avoid any fine due to its role as whistleblower in the investigation, said the OFT.

The settlements relate to three separate infringements of competition law, all of which contained “at least some element of market sharing, price co-ordination or exchange of commercially sensitive information”, said the OFT.

They involved the distribution of vans between 15 January 2008 and 26 January 2010, comprising Ciceley and Northside; the distribution of vans between 1 February 2008 and 26 January 2010, comprising Ciceley and Road Range; and the distribution of trucks between 8 December 2009 and 26 January 2010, involving Ciceley, Enza, Mercedes-Benz and Road Range.

Mercedes-Benz UK, its parent Daimler UK and its ultimate parent Daimler AG will pay the lion’s share of the settlement at just under £1.5m; Ciceley Commercials and its ultimate parent Ciceley Ltd  will pay just under £660,000; Enza Motors, its parent Enza Holdings and ultimate parent Enza Group will pay just over £347,000; and Road Range faces a payment of just over £115,000. See the reactions of the dealerships here.

Lessons learned

In a statement the manufacturer said: " Mercedes-Benz UK has reached a settlement with the Office of Fair Trading for one infringement of competition law relating to its recent investigation into the company and three of its commercial vehicle dealers operating in northern England and Wales.  Mercedes-Benz regrets the incident and has learned a lot from it.

"The company has strengthened its internal controls, and every member of staff participates in comprehensive and ongoing Integrity training programmes.  The company and its staff have fully co-operated with the investigators over the past three years.

"This thorough OFT investigation took three years to complete, and the agreed settlement with Mercedes-Benz UK relates to one meeting held in late 2009.  The settlement figure, based on company turnover, is £1.49 million.

"The settlement reached with the OFT draws the investigation into this matter to a close.  Mercedes-Benz takes its responsibilities under competition law seriously and has taken all appropriate steps to ensure all its staff comply fully with the law."

OFT senior director of cartels, Ali Nikpay, said the cases sent “a clear signal that the OFT will take firm action against companies that collude to deny customers the benefit of fair competition”.