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German sausage makers fined for price collusion

Germany's Federal Cartel Office has imposed multi-million-euro fines on major German sausage making companies for colluding to fix prices.

Twenty-one German sausage makers and 33 individuals have been fined a total of 338 million euros ($461 million) as a punishment for years of price-fixing, Germany's federal competition regulator announced on Tuesday in Frankfurt.

The dozens of different types of sausage found on German supermarket shelves - such as salami, Bavarian weisswurst or liverwurst - are a household staple, with average annual consumption at about 30 kg per person.

"Prices were fixed over many years," Cartel Office President Andreas Mundt said. Company representatives met to agree on price ranges for various products.

Particularly since 2003, there have been agreements between companies like Wiesenhof, Ruegenwalder and Meica, most of which are privately held, aimed at making supermarkets pay sausage makers higher prices, the watchdog said. Nestle subsidiary Herta was also among those fined.

"The total fine seems high at first glance, but is put in perspective if you consider the large number of companies involved, the duration of the cartel and billions of euros of revenues the sector generates," Mundt said.

It's not the first time this year the Cartel Office has fined companies involved in making iconic German products for price-fixing offenses. In January, it slapped fines on breweries for fixing beer prices.

The Cartel Office says it was tipped off about the sausage-makers' price-fixing habit by an anonymous informant. Eleven companies decided to cooperate with authorities and admit wrongdoing.

The companies and individuals fined have two weeks to appeal the decision.

nz/hc (Reuters, AP)

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