German cartel watchdog fines food firms over secret talks | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 17.03.2011
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German cartel watchdog fines food firms over secret talks

Germany's Cartel Office has imposed a multimillion euro fine on three food companies for sharing information about talks with retailers. Kraft, Unilever and Dr. Oetker were all found guilty of breaking competition law.

A woman shopping for pizza

Frozen pizza was among the products discussed

International food giants Kraft and Unilever along with the German brand Dr. Oetker were fined a total of 38 million euros (53 million dollars) by Germany's Cartel Office on Thursday.

The companies' German divisions were found to have broken competition law by meeting to share information on their negotiations with retailers, the office said.

"Competition was hindered by these actions, even though it was not a question of classic collusion on prices, territories or clients," a statement read.

Price hikes discussed

During the discussions some participants were said to have talked about forthcoming price rises, without agreeing on specific arrangements. The office said that products such as candy, ice-cream, frozen pizza, pet food and cleaning materials had been discussed.

The cartel office said that allegations against a fourth company, which was not named, were still being investigated.

Authorities had been notified of the talks by a worker at the German operation of the food multinational Mars. Mars was not fined in connection with the case under cartel office rules that protect businesses that assist with its investigations.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Michael Lawton

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