France fines washing powder firms
Fin24 - Dec 9th 2011, 08:25
Paris/Frankfurt - France’s competition authority slapped fines totalling $484m on Colgate Palmolive, Henkel and Procter & Gamble for fixing prices of washing powder in France from 1997 to 2004.
Unilever escaped a fine because it initially reported the wrongdoing in 2008, the regulator said on Thursday, adding it took into account the particular seriousness of the practices as well as the various aspects of “undoubted” harm the practices had done to the economy.
Secret talks on pricing took place in hotels and restaurants several times a year, with commercial directors from the groups’ French businesses using the code names ’Hugues’ for Henkel, ’Pierre’ for P&G, ’Laurence’ or ’Louis’ for Unilever, and ’Christian’ for Colgate, the regulator said.
German group Henkel, which was hit with a fine of 92.3 million euros, said it would appeal as it believed the case in France was already covered by European Union sanctions in April this year, which covered price-fixing between 2002 and 2005 and in which it escaped a fine.
“Henkel believes that these practices cannot be distinguished from the rest of the practices and therefore considers that the decision issued today does not draw the right legal conclusions.”
It also said the level of the fine was unfair given how it was the first company to disclose that the matter had a European angle.
The fines come just weeks after Britain’s Reckitt Benckiser was fined $32 million euros in Germany for fixing prices on dishwashing and laundry products in a separate case in which Henkel acted as whistleblower.
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