The European Commission has fined Caroos and Group CECAB – two European canned vegetable producers – a total of EUR31m for breaching EU antitrust rules. Bonduelle was not fined as it revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission, a press release published by the European Commission has revealed.
The Commission has found that Bonduelle, Coroos, and Grouple CECAB participated for more than 13 years in a cartel for the supply of certain types of canned vegetables for retailers and/or food service companies in the European Economic Area (EEA). The three companies admitted their involvement in the cartel and agreed to settle the case.
“European consumers should have access to food at affordable prices. Competition enables that. But instead of competing with each other, Coroos and Groupe CECAB agreed to divide the market among themselves and to fix prices for canned vegetables across Europe. They did so for over a decade. These cartels ultimately hurt European consumers and with today’s decision we send a clear message to companies that cartels are not accepted,” said Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner in charge of competition policy.
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 uncertainly 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 commercially sensitive information.
The infringement covered the entire EEA and lasted from 19 January 2000 to 11 June 2013 for Bonduelle and to 1 October 2013 for Coroos and Groupe CECAB.
The Commission’s investigation revealed the existence of a single infringement comprising three separate agreements:
- 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;
- An agreement covering private label sales of canned sweetcorn to retailers in the EEA; and
- An agreement covering both own brands and private label sales (sold under retailers’ brands) of canned vegetables to retailers and the foodservice industry specifically in France.
Coroos participated only in the first agreement while Bonduelle and Groupe CECAB participated in all three.
The fines were set on the basis of the Commission’s 2006 Guidelines on fine. Bonduelle received full immunity for revealing the existence of the cartel, thereby avoid a fine of EUR250m.