EU Competition Watchdogs Raid Peugeot

By Agence France-Presse European Union antitrust busters last week raided Peugeot offices in four EU countries to investigate whether the French car-maker is cheating customers, an official said April 7. The raids in Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands were to probe whether Peugeot is illegally blocking "parallel imports" of its cars, European Commission spokesman Tilman Lueder said. Parallel trade bypasses a manufacturer's official import channels, enabling the customer to get a much better deal than the recommended price on a product. "The consumer has to have the choice to buy his vehicle where he wants within the European Community," the EU's Lueder said. Lueder said there were suspicions that Peugeot dealers in Denmark and the Netherlands had been ordered not to sell cars to customers hopping over the border from Germany, where auto prices are much higher. In Paris, Peugeot, part of the PSA Peugeot Citroen group, promised to cooperate with commission investigators but said it was unfazed by the probe. The EU spokesman said it was "a tad premature" to determine whether last week's raids would lead to formal proceedings under EU antitrust law. The Peugeot probe is the latest in a 5-year-old drive by Brussels to free up parallel car imports among EU member states. In 1998, German giant Volkswagen AG was fined 102 million euros (US$108 million) -- reduced on appeal to 90 million euros -- for blocking the re-importation of its cars from Italy to Germany. DaimlerChrysler AG received a 71.8-million-euro fine in October 2001 for hindering the free trade of Mercedes autos. The PSA Peugeot Citroen group, while pledging to cooperate with Brussels, said there were "no new facts and no extra grievances" registered since the parallel import investigation was first launched in 1998. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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