Espar Pleads Guilty to Fixing Prices of Heating Systems
On March 12, 2015, Espar Inc. pleaded guilty to a felony charge after participating in a price-fixing scheme involving its parking heaters, accessories and packaged kits. Espar Hydronic and Airtronic Heating Systems are used to heat the interior compartment of a semi truck or other commercial vehicle while the engine is turned off.
According to the charges, Espar and unnamed co-conspirators:
- Illegally inflated the prices of heating systems in the U.S. from at least October 1, 2007 through December 31, 2012;
- Discussed parking heater prices for commercial vehicles;
- Set a price floor for heater kits sold to aftermarket customers;
- Agreed to coordinate the timing and amount of price increases for Espar heaters, and
- Carried out the agreement and exchanged information for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreement.
As a result of these agreements, consumers paid more for these products than they would have in a competitive market.
“Today’s plea demonstrates the Antitrust Division’s commitment to holding companies accountable for conspiracies that fix prices on parts used in every day products,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The Antitrust Division will vigorously prosecute companies that engage in schemes that subvert normal competitive processes and defraud American consumers and businesses.”
Espar Inc. has been charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations.
Espar Fined $14.9 Million for Parking Heater Price Fixing Scheme
June 25 – Espar Inc. has been ordered to pay $14.9 million in criminal fines after pleading guilty to participating in a scheme to fix prices for its heating systems, the U.S. Justice Department announced today.
“Today’s sentencing drives home the message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate price fixing that thwarts free competition by setting minimum prices and coordinating price increases,” Baer said. “This conspiracy among sellers of parking heaters resulted in many years of higher prices for aftermarket customers. While the Antitrust Division is pleased with this final resolution of the charge against Espar, we will continue our efforts to root out anticompetitive practices in this industry.”