The European Commission (EC) on Thursday fined German carmakers Volkswagen and BMW a total of 875 million euros ($1.036 billion) for colluding to curb the use of emission cleaning technology in diesel cars.
The European Union's (EU) antitrust authority found that the two companies had made illegal agreements between June 2009 and October 2014 to limit the introduction of AdBlue (an aqueous urea solution) to diesel engine exhaust gases, reducing its effectiveness as a way to produce cleaner emissions, the Xinhua news agency reported.
Car producer Daimler, which had blown the whistle on the wrongdoing, was spared a fine of around 727 million euros.
The Volkswagen Group received a 45 per cent reduction in the fine for helping the European Commission prove the existence of the cartel. It was fined 502.3 million euros, while BMW was fined 372.8 million euros.
Margrethe Vestager, EC's executive vice-president for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age and Competition, explained in a statement that Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche possessed the technology to reduce harmful emissions beyond what was legally required under EU emission standards.
During these meetings, and for over five years, the companies colluded to avoid competition on cleaning better than what is required by law despite the relevant technology being available, the statement read.
"Today's decision is about how legitimate technical cooperation went wrong," Vestager said. "We do not tolerate it when companies collude. It is illegal under EU antitrust rules. Competition and innovation on managing car pollution are essential for Europe to meet our ambitious Green Deal objectives. And this decision shows that we will not hesitate to take action against all forms of cartel conduct putting in jeopardy this goal."
The Commission found that the car manufacturers held regular technical meetings to discuss the development of the selective catalytic reduction technology, which eliminates harmful nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel passenger cars through the injection of AdBlue into the exhaust gas stream.