The total fine amounts to €951.1 million with €605.9 million attributable to personal care products: issued to Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, Sara Lee, Laboratoires Vendôme, Gillette, L'Oréal, Beiersdorf and Vania participated at varying extents.
The total fine is the highest penalty handed down by France’s antitrust arm in the personal care industry and covers products such as shower gel, shampoos, toothpastes, deodorants and razors.
“The punished agreements are of a particular gravity due to their secret character as well as their nature: they enabled competing companies to coordinate on the main parameters of commercial negotiation and in particular on price evolutions,” the regulator said in the statement.
The Competition Authority also pointed out that these infringements harmed the economy.
‘Out of proportion’
Each company has been fined in separate cases, with Cosmetics giant L’Oréal receiving the largest fine of €189.5 million euros, Unilever received a €102 million (172.5 million if its home care case is included), and Beiersdorf made the top three with a €72.1 million fine.
L’Oréal has since released a statement saying that it refutes the accusations and “regrets that the French Competition Authority did not take into account the highly competitive French market in hygiene products as illustrated by the number of manufacturers and retailers present on the market, the large choice of products available to consumers, and the degree of innovation and number of launches.”
The French firm says the amount of the fine is ‘totally out of proportion’ and that it will appeal the decision.
The Competition Authority says that Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Henkel, Reckitt Benckiser, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble and Beiersdorf have not challenged the facts; and have proposed compliance commitments for the future.
They benefited therefore from an additional reduction from 16-18% in the fine.
The Autorité de la concurrence was informed of the existence of these practices by SC Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive and Henkel which successively applied to benefit from the leniency procedure.
The leniency procedure allows a company which informs the Authority of anticompetitive practices in which it takes or took part, to benefit from a full or partial immunity from fines, under certain conditions.
At the time of the practices (2003-2006), the French spent an average of €190 a year on personal care products and the total turnover of the personal care sector exceeded €5 billion in France.
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