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Business
France Fines Major Consumer Product Companies
From the Wall Street Journal of Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:56:00 EST

PARIS—France’s antitrust authority said on Thursday it has fined a group of personal and home-care products companies a total of nearly €1 billion ($1.23 billion) for anticompetitive practices between 2003 and 2006.

The Autorité de la Concurrence said it had fined companies including Colgate-Palmolive Co. , Unilever NV, Procter & Gamble Co. and Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC a total of €345.2 million for collusion, including coordinating price increases for their products sold to supermarkets.

Other companies that make personal-care products including L’Oréal SA, Beiersdorf AG and Gillette, were fined a total of €605.9 million.

The two fines are among the highest imposed by the regulator to date.

The authority said it acted on tip off by SC Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive and Henkel AG & Co. which successively applied to benefit from leniency procedures.

L’Oréal, which was fined €189 million, the highest amount, said it denied the accusations and would appeal the decision.

“L’Oréal is extremely surprised by this decision and the amount of the fine, which are totally out of proportion,” the company said in a statement.

In recent years, the competition authority has broken up an alleged laundry-detergent price-fixing ring and levied a €242 million fine on millers who had allegedly rigged the French packaged-flour market for nearly half a century.

Thursday’s fines cover behavior dating to the early 2000s, and stem from raids by the authority first carried out in 2006.

One raid at a Parisian restaurant Le Royal Villiers interrupted several of the accused companies, including Colgate-Palmolive, SC Johnson and Henkel, and caught them in the act of coordinating their positions in price negotiations with distributors, the competition authority said.

Write to Ruth Bender at Ruth.Bender@wsj.com and Sam Schechner at sam.schechner@wsj.com



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