South Korea announced last week it will fine Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, BMW, and Audi through its antitrust regulator for colluding to manipulate polluting emissions of diesel cars in the country. The ministerial-level central administrative organization will impose a combined fine of 42.3 billion won (around $33.48 million with the current exchange rates).
According to Automotive News, the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) fined Mercedes 20.7 billion won, BMW 15.7 billion won, and Audi 6 billion won. Interestingly, Volkswagen wasn’t given a financial fine as it didn’t earn revenue relevant to the issue. The organization said the collusion reduced competition and restricted consumer choice.
Mercedes told Reuters it “will not have to pay any fine,” citing a similar probe by the European Commission which had the same outcome. The automaker also confirmed it had cooperated fully with the KFTC, which formulates and administers competition policies, and deliberates, decides, and handles antitrust cases in South Korea.
"The case related to the same set of facts which has been subject to the European Commission's proceedings and where Mercedes-Benz acted as a leniency applicant and did not have to pay a fine. At no point were agreements or an exchange of information on prices, volumes or market sharing part of the investigation," a spokesperson for the company told the publication in a statement.
This isn’t the first time Mercedes is fined in the country last year the brand had to pay 20.2 billion won for false advertising of diesel passenger vehicle emissions.
Back in 2021, the European Commission fined Volkswagen and BMW about €875 million for colluding to curb the use of emissions-cleaning technology they had developed. Mercedes was also accused but was not fined after revealing the existence of the cartel.