Battery makers to contest EU price-fixing allegations

A group of car starter battery manufacturers will challenge European Union allegations of price-fixing at a closed hearing next week, according to sources familiar with the matter. The accused companies include Banner, Clarios, Exide, FIAMM Energy Technology (FET) and its predecessor Elettra, as well as Rombat. The European Commission has also charged the trade body Eurobat and its service provider Kellen.

The hearing, set to take place over a week in Brussels, will allow the companies to defend themselves before senior Commission officials, national competition agency representatives, and industry peers. Such hearings occasionally result in the regulators narrowing their charges, though this outcome is uncommon.

Last year, the EU’s executive branch, which serves as the region’s competition watchdog, accused these groups of conspiring to inflate the prices of automotive starter batteries sold to European car manufacturers. The alleged price-fixing scheme is said to have occurred between 2004 and 2017, with the companies allegedly creating and adhering to new pricing indexes under the so-called Eurobat Premium system during their negotiations with carmakers.

The Commission, Banner, and FET have declined to comment, while Clarios, Exide, Rombat, Eurobat, and Kellen have not yet responded to requests for statements.

If found guilty of violating EU antitrust regulations, these companies, which produce 12-volt lead batteries used to start most internal combustion engine vehicles, could face fines amounting to up to 10% of their global revenue.