Ever since the truck cartel scandal broke and the compensation proceedings were launched, there have been constant rumours that it is not worth claiming compensation because there could be “consequences”.
Despite the fact that in Germany in 2022 the cases are already at the point where 3 Supreme Court judgements have clearly upheld the truck buyers’ position and rejected the truck manufacturers’ defence, the voices that fleet operators should “think twice” before taking such a step have not been silenced.
In fact, the global problems facing truck manufacturers and supply chains (which we will most certainly have to live with in 2022-2023) have further reinforced fears that the allocation of the scarce truck supply will be affected by which companies have taken legal action.
The most important fact is that the issue of truck cartel damages and the terms of new truck sales are two completely separate issues that cannot be mixed up.
Let us therefore examine in detail and objectively why these fears are misplaced.
(1) WHEN SHOULD BUYERS BE PUNISHED?
Truck manufacturers’ production and supply constraints are expected to limit new truck supply in 2022-2023. The truck cartel lawsuits could be concluded in a very favourable scenario in such a short period of time. To our best knowledge, there are at least 800,000 trucks in Europe in the process of being claimed for damages. This is the number of cases in which sanctions would have to be applied in such a short time, which is practically impossible.
(2) HOW TO ORGANISE IT?
Who can realistically imagine that any truck manufacturer would set up the apparatus to find out which companies have taken legal action and secretly give instructions to sales companies to discriminate against them? It is possible to say ‘we are angry with the customer’ in a small corner shop, but how would these processes be feasible at group level, and with 6 manufacturers. Let’s not forget that in most cases a customer has bought trucks from several manufacturers.
(3) INFORMATION AND DECISION MAKING ARE NOT IN THE SAME HANDS
While compensation proceedings are taking place at the courts, it could theoretically be in the interest of the truck manufacturers to take deterrent action and this should be operated through the truck dealer network. This is a much more dangerous situation for any organisation that is up to no good, because not only do they risk the same scandal, but they would no longer have to organise in secret and not just in-house. Let’s not forget that a significant proportion of truck dealers are independent private businesses who cannot be directly influenced in such a way.
(4) DO WE WANT ANOTHER SCANDAL?
Who dares to risk, in the light of what has happened, further escalating what is already the biggest anti-competitive case ever? How can these measures be kept secret? Numerous examples (most recently the DAF dealers case in Poland) show that it is only a matter of time before the abuses come to light.
(5) LET’S THINK ABOUT THE NUMBERS
Why should a company with typically 100-500 trucks be afraid of illegal sanctions when there are 250,000 trucks pending before the Munich District Court alone and the major players in the transport industry have filed claims for thousands, sometimes more than 10,000 trucks. Moreover, all of them have had, and continue to have, impeccable relations with truck manufacturers. Business is business.
(6) THE QUESTION OF ECONOMIES OF SCALE
Is it even worth it? The answer is clearly not! If we put the potential profit in one of the scales of the pan, we can count very little there. The irony of the matter is that the exercise of sanctions would entail enormous risk and organisational difficulties, while the very act of making possible sanctions public discourse achieves the desired effect: it will cause people to withdraw from the process and lose their money.
(7) ANY ACTION WOULD HAVE TO BE COORDINATED
What happens if there is no background agreement between all truck manufacturers? The customer buys where he finds better conditions. Only in the framework of a new cartel, in which all truck manufacturers participate, and in which they involve their dealer network, would it be possible to sanction the buyers.
This is completely unthinkable.