Food Packaging Sector is EC’s Latest Anti-Cartel Target
The European Commission (EC) has fined eight manufacturers and two distributors of retail food packaging trays a total of nearly €115.9m (US$129.8m/£82.3m) for having participating in at least one of five separate cartels.
The eight manufacturers are Huhtamki of Finland; Nespak and Vitembal of France; Silver Plastics of Germany; Coopbox, Magic Pack and Sirap-Gema of Italy; and Linpac of the UK. The two distributors are Ovarpack of Portugal and Propack of the UK.
The companies fixed prices and allocated customers of polystyrene foam or polypropylene rigid trays, in breach of EU antitrust rules. These two materials are used for packaging foods such as cheese, meat and fish sold in shops or supermarkets. Linpac benefited from full immunity under the EC’s 2006 Leniency Guidelines as it revealed the existence of the cartels to the Commission.
“Millions of consumers buying food for themselves and their families have potentially been hit by these cartels,” said Margrethe Vestager, EC commissioner for competition policy.
“The companies concerned carved up the retail food packaging market and agreed on prices rather than competing on their merits. Cartels harm our entire economy when companies set prices instead of the market. This removes the incentive to innovate and will not be tolerated.”
The EC investigation revealed a total of five separate cartels for retail food packaging in a large part of the European Economic Area (EEA) from the early 2000s and for periods ranging from just over a year to almost eight years.
Some differences existed between the cartels, but the 10 companies fixed prices, allocated customers and markets, engaged in bid-rigging and exchanged commercially-sensitive information.
Each cartel operated within the framework of multilateral and bilateral contacts usually held on the fringes of legitimate industry gatherings. Physical meetings were supplemented by numerous emails and phone exchanges.