No doubt about it: cars are expensive. Along with your home and your education, a car is one of the most expensive investments you'll ever make.
Unfortunately, some of us have been paying even more for our cars than we should've, and it's because 20 companies that supply parts for those cars have been fixing prices for over a decade. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. has now fined those companies a total of $1.6 billion.
Most of the parts-makers in question hail from Japan -- two notable examples being Hitachi Automotive and Mitsubishi Electric, which are responsible for just under $400 million of the total fine.
And of course, those companies didn't run themselves: 21 executives have been charged in the anti-trust investigation, too, with some already serving sentences in U.S. prisons.
According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the price-fixing scheme affected roughly 25 million vehicles purchased by U.S. consumers. A partial list of automakers who shelled out for the higher-priced parts includes Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, and Toyota.
It appears that all those automakers have cooperated fully with the Justice Department's investigation. However, only one -- Ford -- has sued any of the suppliers to recoup the extra cash it paid for parts. That may be because most, if not all, of the parts-suppliers are still up and running, and automakers continue to do business with them. Lawsuits would complicate those important relationships.
That said, a number of civil suits against the 20 parts-manufacturers are popping up, hoping to earn a little payback for consumers. We wouldn't be surprised if some of those cases gained class-action status, meaning that some of you could receive refunds down the line. Stay tuned.