February 22, 2020

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Auto-parts class action casts wide net

Drivers of vehicles in 2000-10 could be eligible, lawyer says

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/3/2016 (1436 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you drove a vehicle in Manitoba between 2000 and 2010, Norman Boudreau wants you.

The Winnipeg-based lawyer has just launched a class-action lawsuit against more than two dozen automobile parts manufacturers from Canada, the U.S., Japan and South Korea, accusing them of price-fixing and conspiracy.

The class action alleges the manufacturers’ actions, including bid-rigging, resulted in higher prices for consumers while also suppressing competition from other companies.

He believes the artificially inflated prices that were paid by the makers of both automobiles and components during the years in question were passed on to consumers who bought or leased new vehicles containing a variety of parts in question or who needed their vehicles repaired with those parts. They include cooling systems, windshield washer systems, starters, alternators, power window motors and air-conditioning systems. Boudreau said the goal of the class action is to return some of that money to the vehicle owners.

"The defendants intentionally engaged in unlawful conduct for their personal financial gain," the statement of claim reads. "The conduct of the defendants was planned and deliberate. It lasted for several years. The defendants profited from their misconduct. Their conduct was high-handed and represented a marked departure from ordinary standards of decent behaviour."

Boudreau said he’s buoyed by the fact the Competition Bureau of Canada has already fined the defendants more than $50 million for the kinds of transgressions he has documented in the 200-page statement of claim he has filed, along with Vancouver-based class-action lawyer David Klein.

"So, you can imagine the amount of damages we can get from this class action," Boudreau said.

Just how many Manitobans are eligible to participate remains to be seen, but the drivers of "most of the cars on the streets of Winnipeg" during the 10-year period will be eligible.

"The most affected ones are Honda and Toyota passenger vehicles," Klein said.

The unjustified markups on the various parts varies, but even if it was small, because of the many thousands of vehicles involved, Klein said the class action is still worth pursuing because the amount of money attained illegally is likely into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The defendants include Hitachi Automotive Systems, Denso Corp., Yazaki North America and Furakawa Electric Co. A statement of defence has not been filed.

The class action has been filed in Manitoba and B.C. Interested motorists can sign up for it at www.boudreaulaw.ca.

Vehicle owners shouldn’t hold their breath, though, as it will likely take at least a year for the class action to get certified. At that point, it would have to work its way through the court system.

Klein and Boudreau have worked together in the past, most notably on the class-action lawsuit against the Crocus Investment Fund a decade ago, which secured a $13-million settlement on behalf of unitholders.



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