UK antitrust body wins appeal over BMW and VW information request

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain’s antitrust regulator can demand information from companies based outside the United Kingdom, the Court of Appeal in London ruled on Wednesday in a case arising from an investigation into BMW and Volkswagen.

The German carmakers challenged the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) power to request documents and information as part of an investigation into alleged anti-competitive conduct in the recycling of old or written-off vehicles.

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the ultimate parent company of the BMW group, was fined 30,000 pounds ($37,991) – plus a daily penalty of 15,000 pounds – in December 2022 for failing to provide information in relation to the investigation.

The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) overturned the fine last year, ruling that the CMA does not have the power to request information held outside the UK from companies based outside the jurisdiction.

Volkswagen’s legal challenge to a CMA request for information was also upheld.

But the Court of Appeal reversed the CAT’s decision on Wednesday, with the court ruling that there would be “a gaping lacuna” in the CMA’s powers if it could not request information from companies based outside the UK.

“The absence of such a power would create a perverse incentive for conspirators to move offshore to organise cartels directed at harming the United Kingdom market and they would be more or less immune from investigation,” the court said in a written ruling.

CMA Chief Executive Sarah Cardell welcomed the ruling, saying in a statement that it “strengthens the CMA’s ability to investigate, enforce against and deter any anti-competitive conduct that harms consumers, businesses and markets in the UK”.

BMW and Volkswagen both said they were reviewing the Court of Appeal’s judgment and considering their options.

(Reporting by Sam TobinEditing by Sarah Young, Jane Merriman and David Goodman)