Nine firms fined for cartel agreement

The food producer made a deal with eight retailers; only one admitted it.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo(Source: Sme)

The Antimonopoly Office (PMÚ) has fined altogether nine companies with a total of €10.3 million for signing a cartel agreement on prices of certain foodstuffs. It is one of the highest fines issued by PMÚ, the Sme daily reported.

The investigation, launched in 2013, revealed that the Slovak dairy Rajo agreed on prices of milk, cream and butter together with eight retailers. As a result, the prices were very similar in all of their shops. Even the discounted prices were a result of the agreement.

The list of retailers includes Billa, Carrefour, CBA, Coop Jednota, Moja Samoška, Kaufland, Terno, and Tesco. They usually only pretended to fight for customers when selling the Rajo products, Sme wrote.

“The system of operation and communication among the participants caused that the products were sold for prices that were higher than if they had originated according to the principles of effective market competition,” PMÚ wrote in the report, as quoted by Sme.

Most of the retailers were making price deals with Rajo between May 2009 and February 2014. Moja Samoška joined in April 2013.

PMÚ revealed the cartel mostly thanks to the emails it seized during the raids. The communication shows that Rajo coordinated the prices of its milk, butter and cream, and also that the company and some retailers knew it was illegal.

Rajo, as well as seven retailers, however, still plead their innocence and claim the charges are fabricated. The only one that admitted to the cartel agreement is Billa, which will thus pay only half of the fine, Sme wrote.

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