By David Ingram
(Reuters) - U.S. plaintiffs' lawyers brought a new proposed
class action against auto parts suppliers, adding to a mass of
litigation that is piggybacking off government antitrust
investigations into price-fixing.
The suit, filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for
the Eastern District of Michigan, targets parts makers and
suppliers for their engine starters, the device that starts a
car when a driver turns the ignition switch.
As in other suits filed in connection with auto parts, the
proposed class alleges that consumers paid artificially inflated
prices when they bought or leased vehicles.
The suits coincide with sweeping investigations by multiple
governments. The U.S. Justice Department says its investigation
into price-fixing in auto parts has ballooned into the
department's biggest-ever criminal antitrust investigation.
The companies named as defendants in the latest suit are
Denso Corp, Hitachi Ltd, Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd, Mitsuba
Corp and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.
They conspired to "suppress and eliminate competition in the
automotive parts industry by agreeing to rig bids for, and to
fix, stabilize, and maintain the prices of, starters sold to
automobile manufacturers," the suit alleges.
A Mitsubishi Electric spokeswoman declined to comment. The
other companies did not respond to requests for comment.
All the companies have been targets of a price-fixing
crackdown by authorities in Japan.
In November, the Japanese Fair Trade Commission fined
Mitsuba and Mitsubishi Electric for conspiring to fix the prices
of starters and other auto parts. The commission scrutinized but
did not fine Denso, Hitachi and Hitachi Automotive.
Last month, Denso agreed to plead guilty and pay a $78
million fine as part of the U.S. government's investigation.
The law firms that brought the latest private suit are the
same ones already suing makers and suppliers in connection with
other parts, such as wire harness systems and fuel senders.
Those suits were consolidated in June 2012 into multidistrict
litigation in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of
Lawyers at the Miller Law Firm, who signed the complaint,
did not respond to requests for comment.
The case is Adams v. Denso Corp, U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of Michigan, No. 2:13-cv-10804.
For the plaintiffs: Powell Miller and Adam Schnatz of the
Miller Law Firm.
For the defendants: Not immediately available.
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