Washing powder manufacturers fined for price-fixing

14 April 2011

14 April 2011 | Angeline Albert

Unilever and Procter & Gamble (P&G) have been fined €315.2 million (£278 million) by the European Commission for fixing the price of washing powder.

The Commission penalised the laundry detergent producers for operating a cartel along with Henkel in eight European countries.

P&G was fined €211.2 million (£187.6 million) and Unilever was fined €104 million (£92.3 million). Henkel escaped a fine because it blew the whistle on the collusion.

The price-fixing lasted three years from January 2002 to March 2005 and involved coordinating the prices charged to buyers at retailers in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands.

Unilever produces Surf and Comfort, P&G makes Ariel, Bold and Daz and Henkel is the manufacturer of Persil.

Joaquín Almunia, European commissioner for competition, said the cartel activity was a byproduct of a programme initiated by a trade association to increase washing powder concentrations to reduce packaging.

P&G and Unilever both applied for leniency in return for cooperation following raids on their offices in June 2008. P&G’s fine was reduced by 50 per cent and Unilever’s by 25 per cent. Both companies received a further 10 per cent reduction for settling the case with the Commission.

In a statement P&G said: “We have routinely reported on this case every quarter for the last three years and have already strengthened our global compliance programme.”

A statement from Unilever said: “The company has used the findings from this investigation to strengthen further its internal compliance programme. All key managers in Europe have been retrained on the European competition rules and are well placed to participate fully in industry-wide environmental initiatives.”

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