Antitrust Law Daily EC fines participants in canned vegetable cartel
Friday, September 27, 2019

EC fines participants in canned vegetable cartel

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

Three companies admitted to participating in a cartel for the supply of certain types of canned vegetables to retailers and/or food service companies in Europe for more than a decade.

The European Commission (EC) today announced settlements in an investigation into a conspiracy among producers of canned vegetables. The EC fined Netherlands-based Coroos and Groupe CECAB of France a total of €31,647,000 (approximately U.S. $34.6 million) for breaching European Union antitrust rules. France-based Bonduelle Group, although a co-conspirator, was not fined as it revealed the existence of the cartel to the EC. Both Bonduelle and Groupe CECAB issued statements, acknowledging the EC action and their cooperation in the probe.

According to the EC, the aim of the three companies involved in the cartel was to preserve or strengthen their position on the market, to maintain or increase selling prices, to reduce uncertainty regarding their future commercial conduct, and to formulate and control marketing and trading conditions to their advantage. To achieve this aim, the companies set prices, agreed on market shares and volume quotas, allocated customers and markets, coordinated their replies to tenders, and exchanged commercially sensitive information, it was noted.

The EC pointed to three separate agreements:

  1. an agreement covering private label sales of canned vegetables such as green beans, peas, peas-and-carrots mix, vegetable macedoine to retailers in the EEA;
  2. an agreement covering private label sales of canned sweetcorn to retailers in the EEA; and
  3. an agreement covering both own brands and private label sales (sold under retailers' brands) of canned vegetables to retailers and to the food service industry specifically in France.

Coroos participated only in the first agreement while Bonduelle and Groupe CECAB participated in all three, the EC explained.

Fines. Groupe CECAB was fined €18 million (approximately U.S. $19.7 million). Coroos was fined €13,647,000 (approximately U.S. $15 million). Both fines were reduced under the leniency program and the settlement procedure. Bonduelle was exempted from financial penalties.

Companies: Bonduelle Group; COROOS Conserven B.V.; Groupe CECAB

MainStory: TopStory Antitrust

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