BMW and VW win appeal over UK antitrust information request

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LONDON (Reuters) – BMW and Volkswagen won an appeal in a London tribunal on Wednesday over the British antitrust regulator’s powers to demand information from companies based outside the United Kingdom.

The German carmakers challenged the powers of the Competition and Markets Authority to request documents and information relating to a probe 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 ($36,253) – plus a daily penalty of 15,000 pounds – in December for failing to provide information in relation to the investigation.

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

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

A CMA spokesperson said in a statement that the ruling “substantially risks undermining our ability to investigate, enforce against and deter anti-competitive conduct that harms consumers, businesses and markets in the UK”.

The watchdog said it was going to seek permission to appeal. In its ruling, the CAT said that it was minded to grant permission for an appeal, but would hear argument from BMW and VW if they wished to oppose it.

A spokesperson for BMW said it was satisfied with the ruling. VW did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

($1 = 0.8277 pounds)

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by William Schomberg, William James and Jane Merriman)