Auto-parts makers agreed to pay $78M in Canadian price-fixing class action settlements

Courts in three provinces have approved settlements of 23 Canadian class-action lawsuits worth $78 million in a series of cases alleging some auto-parts makers cheated car manufacturers, businesses and new-car buyers in a price-fixing scheme dating back nearly two decades.

The settlements, approved by courts in Ontario, BC and Quebec on Wednesday, are the latest in a series of class actions in Canada that allege a vast conspiracy to fix prices on a laundry list of 45 auto parts. They range from air conditioners to braking systems, ignition coils, door latches and throttle controls installed in new vehicles over an 18-year period.

Businesses and consumers who bought or leased new vehicles sold between July 1, 1998, and Sept. 30, 2016, are eligible to receive $25 per claim in compensation for the following brands:

  • Aston Martin.
  • BMW/Mini Coopers.
  • Chrysler/Dodge/Fiat/Jeep/Ram.
  • Ford/Lincoln/Mercury.
  • General Motors (Buick/Cadillac/Chevrolet/Daewoo/GMC/Hummer/Isuzu/Oldsmobile/Pontiac/Saab/Saturn).
  • Honda/Acura.
  • Jaguars/Land Rovers.
  • Mazda.
  • Nissan/Infiniti.
  • Subaru.
  • Toyota/Lexus.
  • Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche and Volvo.

Lawyers in the class action stress no wrongdoing has been alleged by the automakers. Rather, it is the auto-parts companies that are alleged to have cheated everyone along the supply chain, starting with the manufacturers.

A list of parts, their manufacturers and the individual settlements in the case can be found here.

Some companies could claim upwards of $10K

Linda Visser is a partner with London, Ont.-based Siskinds LLP, one of the law firms involved in the class action cases.

Visser told CBC News on Wednesday the automakers were the first purchasers of the price-fixed parts and were ordered by the court to provide customer information in an order to provide notice about the settlement.

“They maintain a lot of this information for warranty purposes. So we were able to access that information to help with the claims administration process to make it easier for people to file claims, including the dealers and the end purchasers of new vehicles.”

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Linda Visser, a partner with Siskinds law firm based in London, Ont., says the automakers were the first purchasers of the price-fixed parts. (Siskinds)

Anyone who applies through the class action’s website is eligible to receive up to $25 per claim, according to Visser. While consumers might expect to get less than $100, some businesses — including dealerships and car rental companies — can expect to collect up to $10,000 depending on the volume of cars they’ve purchased.

Visser said the alleged conspiracy was likely discovered when one of the alleged conspirators went to the authorities in exchange for amnesty, similar to the way the Competition Bureau discovered Canada’s infamous bread price-fixing conspiracy after it was reported by Weston and Loblaws, two of the alleged accusers.

“It’s the same basic concept,” she said. “One of the companies involved, their legal department gets a hold of it. In exchange for giving up the story, they get immunity.”

According to the settlement website, anyone who buys a new car must rely on customer information provided by the automakers as proof of purchase. Anyone eligible will be notified by email or letter between June 28 and July 12 with a user ID and password to access their information.

Car owners who did not receive a notification during that time are asked to check their “junk” or “spam” folders.

Lawyers involved in the case said there would be one more settlement coming and those eligible would be notified, but gave no date for when the court would issue a decision.

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