ACM and the French competition authority have worked together in fining a French cartel
The French competition authority today imposed fines, totaling 58.3 million euros, on seven food companies for concluding anticompetitive arrangements regarding the selling of apple sauce. These companies secretly fixed prices, and shared the French market among themselves. A Dutch company (Coroos) was also involved in the cartel, and was the first to reveal the cartel to the French authority. In return, it has been granted fine immunity, meaning it has been fully exempted from paying the fine.
The cartel existed from 2010 to 2014. The companies supplied apple sauce to private labels of various large supermarket chains as well as to catering companies and companies in the hospitality industry in France. The companies had a combined market share of over 90%. The companies concluded secret price-fixing agreements, and shared market volumes and customers among each other. Together, they also made up a story for justifying their price increases vis-à-vis their customers. The meetings of the cartel members did not take place at the offices of any of the members but rather in hotels and restaurants across France. The cartel members used separate mobile phones for their covert meetings and discussions.
Confess your involvement in a cartel, and avoid a fine
Price-fixing and market-sharing agreements among competitors are prohibited across Europe as well as in most countries outside the EU. In most countries, the first cartel member that reveals the cartel to the authorities may qualify for fine immunity. This French case again demonstrates that leniency programs truly help in the fight against cartels.
The dismantling of this cartel also shows that the various European regulators are working together very well. ACM assisted the French competition authority in the dawn raids at the Dutch company. Cross-border cartels do not escape antitrust enforcement.