The watchdog has written to the truck maker plus the commercial vehicle dealerships outlining its case, which involve alleged infringements that took place between 2007 and 2010.
It claims each infringement involved two or three dealers and that Mercedes-Benz was also involved in two of the alleged infringements.
The OFT has written to: Ciceley Commercials and its ultimate parent Ciceley, Enza Motors, its parent Enza Holdings and its ultimate parent Enza Group, H&L Garages and its parent Dusted Powder, Mercedes-Benz UK, its parent Daimler UK and its ultimate parent Daimler AG, Northside Truck & Van and its ultimate parent S.A.H, and Road Range.
The Statement of Objections supplied to the businesses is not being made public, but the OFT says the infringements all contain an element of market sharing, price coordination and/or exchange of commercially sensitive information.
It adds that 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.
The OFT tells Commercialmotor.com that the development is unconnected with its recent announcement that it had closed its civil investigation into suspected cartel behaviour by CV manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz.
“Based on the evidence currently before us, we have reason to believe that these dealers co-operated to limit competition in their areas,” says Ali Nikpay, OFT senior director of cartels.
“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.”
A statement released by Mercedes-Benz says: “We now have detailed information about the investigation of the OFT for the first time. We will analyse the information and then give our feedback to the OFT. Please understand that we cannot comment further in an ongoing procedure and we will continue to co-operate with the authorities.”
Northside Truck and Van MD Tim Ward says: “[We note] the announcement made today by the Office of Fair Trading (“OFT”) regarding the issue of its Statement of Objections in respect of its investigation into the distribution of Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles under the Competition Act 1998.
“Northside will carefully consider the content of the Statement of Objections before submitting appropriate comments to the OFT in response to the allegations made against it. Since the initiation of the OFT’s investigation, Northside Truck and Van has reviewed its compliance procedures to ensure they are effective.
“Northside Truck and Van does not condone anti-competitive behaviour. Northside Truck and Van remains committed to its customers and to offering excellent service and competitive prices.”