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Whiter than white? EU fines washing powder cartel

13 april 2011, 18:39
Photo courtesy of www.diytrade.com
Photo courtesy of www.diytrade.com
They claim whiter than white results, but housewives got proof of price-fixing Wednesday as the makers of Ariel and Persil agreed to pay fines totalling over 300 million euros for running a washing-powder cartel, AFP reports.

Global giants Procter & Gamble and Unilever reached settlements to pay the European Commission, which polices business abuses across the European Union market for half a billion consumers, 211.2 million euros ($306 million) and 104 million euros ($151 million) respectively, the EU said.

Germany's Henkel was also listed as a member of the cartel that operated for more than three years at the start of the last decade, but it escaped any fine having revealed the sharp practices initially in 2008.

"I will not name the brands, but they all feature prominently on the shelves of supermarkets," said EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

"Henkel, Procter & Gamble and Unilever engaged in anti-competitive practices... on their own initiative and at their own risk," he said, in a bid "to protect their own market share."

Almunia would not put a figure on how much the companies gained from the secret deal to fix prices that arose out of a trade association plan "to improve the environmental performance of detergent products."

But he said he hoped the fine would prove "deterrent enough" and warned that companies in all business sectors "should be under no illusion that the commission will pursue its relentless fight against cartels, which extract higher prices from consumers than if companies compete fairly."

The companies fixed prices in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands.

They both obtained a 10 percent reduction in the fines, based on associated business turnover, for holding their hands up after raids by inspectors.

It was the third time the commission has reached a settlement in a gamut of cartel cases, which often run for years, after similar outcomes last year in the computing and animal feed sectors.

Earlier this month, a cartel of 17 steelmakers led by global leader ArcelorMittal saw fines for fixing markets between 1984 and 2002 reduced from an initial 518 million euros to 269 million.

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