French dairy companies fined €190m over price fixing cartel

A price fixing cartel in the French dairy industry has been uncovered involving 10 companies with fines totalling €190m.

The Competition Authority in France made public a decision in recent days which condemns the actions of Yoplait producers Senagral (Senoble), Lactalis, Novandie (Andros group) Dairy Masters of Cotentin, Laïta, Alsace Milk, Dairy St. Malo, Yeo costs (Group 3A) and H. Dairies Triballat (Rians).

The price fixing practices took place from 2006 to 2012 with a variable duration depending on different companies.

The practices were brought to the attention of the Competition Authority in August 2011 and February 2012 by General Mills  in 2011 shortly after the US food giant bought control of France’s Yoplait and then by Senoble-Senagral who in turn, also sought leniency.

Yoplait has been completely released from punishment as the first leniency applicant, thus escapes a fine of €44.7m. Senagral, which incurred a penalty in the amount of €101.3m also benefited from a reduced sanction.

According to the French Competition Authority many elements of the case show that the sanctioned companies met and had numerous telephone calls to agree on prices and share volumes in the dairy sector in private label.

In France supermarkets and hypermarkets are the main market for manufacturers of fresh dairy products with 92% of retail sales of yogurt, fresh cheese, fresh cream and dairy desserts sold in large food stores to the value of about €5 billion in 2013.

The biggest fine of €56m was awarded against Lactalis Nestle Ultra Frais.