Record fine or settlement in supermarket cartel case?

Record fine or settlement in supermarket cartel case?

Allegedly, there will be a ruling on the cartel case implicating 17 Belgian supermarkets and manufacturers. According to Bloomberg, the fine could be as high as 600 million euro, although a settlement is also still possible.

Price arrangements between 2002 and 2007

Three separate sources have confirmed to press agency Bloomberg that Belgium might hand out a huge fine for price arrangements made between 2002 and 2007. Delhaize, Carrefour, Colruyt, Cora and other distributors had apparently agreed to settle on specific prices, getting assistance from multinationals like GlaxoSmithKline, L'Oréal and Colgate.


Prices for disposable diapers, tooth paste and shampoo among other things were artificially kept up that way. According to Bloomberg, the fine could reach 600 million euro, "a record sum for Belgium".


The investigation into these deals started in 2007 by the Investigation and Prosecution Office of the Belgian Competition Authority and even led to search warrants for the companies involved. Colruyt, Delhaize and Carrefour even tried to get those search warrants nullified in court 18 months ago, claiming there were irregularities. 


"Talks between parties and Investigation and Prosecution Office"

Jacques Steenbergen, president of the Belgian Competition Authority's Investigation and Prosecution Office, reacted surprised in De Tijd: "As far as I know, there are talks between all parties involved (the supermarkets and the distributors) and our  Investigation and Prosecution Office."

He points out that the Investigation and Prosecution Office now has an additional option at its disposal now: "If the parties admit guilt, lower fines may be handed out, sort of a settlement."

Colruyt, Delhaize and Carrefour have refused to comment on the news. If a fine is given, Colgate-Palmolive Co. would not be given one, as it was the one who unveiled the existence of the cartel, according to two sources at Bloomberg.

In a similar cartel case in France, 13 companies (including L'Oréal) were given a 950 million euro fine. Similarly, prices for shampoo and tooth paste among other things were kept artificially high.