Mercedes-Benz and three of its commercial vehicle dealers have been fined £2.6 million after being found guilty of price-fixing and breaching competition law over the distribution of Mercedes-Benz trucks and vans.
The dealers, which are mainly active in areas within the North of England and parts of Wales and Scotland, had committed various offences, but all admitted to "some element" of market sharing, price fixing or "exchange of commercially sensitive information", relating to the distribution of commercial vehicles between 2008 and 2010.
A further two allegations are still being investigated, and could result in a further fine for the distributors.
The commercial dealers were Ciceley, Road Range and Enza. A fourth, Northside, also admitted infringing competition law, but will avoid a fine, having been the first company to come forward after the investigation commenced to provide valuable evidence of collusion in return for immunity from penalty under the Office of Fair Trading's (OFT) leniency policy.
The fine is part of a three-year investigation by the watchdog into Mercedes Benz, which has already seen the managing director of its commercial vehicle wing arrested over alleged price-fixing after the OFT raided the German company's UK offices in Tongwell, Milton Keynes. He was released on bail later that day.
Ali Nikpay, OFT's senior director of cartels, said in a statement: "These cases send a clear signal that the OFT will take firm action against companies that collude to deny customers the benefit of fair competition, regardless of the size of the firms involved or geographic scope of the investigation.
"These cases also underline that the OFT can uncover cartels even in cases where the businesses involved do not blow the whistle, as well as being a concrete illustration of the benefits of businesses acting quickly and cooperating at the earliest opportunity so as to qualify for immunity from fines."
A spokesman for Mercedes-Benz told the Telegraph the company had responded to the investigation by "strengthening its internal controls", with "every member of staff participating in comprehensive and ongoing integrity training programmes".
"Mercedes-Benz takes its responsibilities under competition law seriously and has taken all appropriate steps to ensure all its staff comply fully with the law," he added.