MADRID – OCU, Spain’s biggest consumer association, is preparing to bring a class-action lawsuit against more than 250 auto dealers and 30 automakers’ Spanish operations on behalf of more than 70,000 motorists possibly affected by price-fixing practices from 2006 to 2013.
The Spanish Commission on Competition and Markets earlier this year fined the dealers and manufacturers more than €224 million ($241 million) for price-fixing practices and restricting competition by exchanging critical information such as maximum discounts and used-vehicle prices.
Between March and July the Commission conducted six separate probes of dealers who acquired vehicles between 2006 and 2013, including Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen.
Due to the summer holidays, the OCU’s effort to locate potential victims of the fraud went unnoticed. But the consumer group announced that as of Oct. 31, its deadline for enrolling people in the class action, 160,000 motorists had tried to enroll through the OCU website.
OCU, however, considers only 70,000 of them eligible to join the lawsuit. Of that number, those intent on joining the class action this month will have to present OCU lawyers documents proving their car acquisition. Later they will have to provide a certain amount of money to help cover court costs. The lawyers then will file the class action.
Attorney Rosa Guirado, who also is an economist and lawyer, says the basis for damages in the Spanish price-fixing case is stronger than that of the Volkswagen diesel-emissions fraud scandal.
OCU also is attempting to contact motorists potentially affected by the Volkswagen affair in order to follow the progress of that case and possibly prepare a class-action against the German automaker. More than 9,000 Spanish motorists have responded.