The French Competition Authority has announced record fines against household and cosmetic products makers.
According to the Authority, concerned companies have been found guilty of price-fixing practices in supermarkets between 2003 and 2006. In particular, they would have coordinated price hikes and successfully obtained average increases two or three times higher than those recorded for the same products in neighbouring countries.
The first fine (345.2 million euros) is related to the households market. Concerned companies are: Henkel, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, Sara Lee, SC Johnson and Bolton Solitaire. The second fine (605.9 million euros) is related to personal hygiene products. Concerned companies are Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, Sara Lee, Laboratoires Vendôme, Gillette, L’Oréal, Beiersdorf and Vania.
The Competition Authority said the level of the sanctions is due to the large size of affected markets and to the negative impact the illegal practices had on the economy.
The Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Henkel, Reckitt Benckiser, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble and Beiersdorf groups did not deny the charges brought against them and announced "compliance commitments" for the future. Reckitt Benckiser, for instance, said it “takes its obligations to comply with the law very seriously.” The group announced to have instituted “a robust compliance programme throughout [its] global operations, including France.”
The L’Oréal group, however, refuted all the accusations of anticompetitive activity with its competitors and said it was “extremely surprised by this decision and the amount of the fine which are totally out of proportion.” The French company reiterated it is “totally committed to respecting antitrust laws” and said it would appeal the Authority’s decision.