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AN confirms dairy cartel and fines of 28 million to Pascual, Central Lechera Galicia, Lactalis and Nestlé

Orders the Authority to recalculate the fines for Comercial Alimentaria Peñasanta, Danone and Industrias Lácteas Granada for prescribed periods.

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AN confirms dairy cartel and fines of 28 million to Pascual, Central Lechera Galicia, Lactalis and Nestlé

Orders the Authority to recalculate the fines for Comercial Alimentaria Peñasanta, Danone and Industrias Lácteas Granada for prescribed periods

MADRID, 21 Feb. (EUROPA PRESS) -

The contentious-administrative Chamber of the National Court has confirmed this Wednesday the CNMC resolution of July 2019 that considered that eight dairy companies, including Pascual, Danone, Lactalis or Nestlé, among others, and two associations formed a cartel to exchange sensitive commercial information to coordinate the purchase of milk in Spain.

Specifically, the court has issued nine sentences, one for each appellant company, confirming the fines of 8.5 million euros imposed on Calidad Pascual; of 53,310 euros to Central Lechera Galicia; 11.6 million to Grupo Lactalis Iberia; 6.8 million to Nestlé and 929,644 euros to Schreiber Food España, as recorded in the different rulings of the National Court.

Regarding these sanctions, the Chamber has rejected the argument of the companies, which had appealed the Competition ruling, that they consider them arbitrary, and has considered that "they are motivated and are not disproportionate", because they are below the average of the type maximum sanction, with a percentage that adjusts to the particular circumstances of the parties involved.

However, the court has partially upheld the appeal presented by Comercial Alimentaria Peñasanta, which had been fined 21.8 million euros; Danone, with 20.2 million euros; Industrias Lácteas Granada (Puleva), sanctioned with 10.2 million euros; and Association of Dairy Companies of Galicia (Aelga), after "understanding that some of the periods investigated are prescribed."

Thus, the Chamber has asked Competition to recalculate these fines taking into account the periods that are considered prescribed for each of them, while in the case of Aelga, the Court confirms that it participated in the cartel, but has annulled the fine of 60,000 euros "due to lack of motivation."

In this way, the sentences confirm the sanctions for "very serious" infringement of article 1 of Law 15/2007 and article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU in matters of competition committed by the companies investigated between 2000 and 2013.

The Court considers proven the "existence of exchanges of information on prices and other commercial conditions" between competing companies in the dairy sector, as well as contacts on prices and other commercial conditions by these companies, which have a relevant role in the dairy sector, through the two associations investigated, the most representative of the sector.

It also sees accredited contacts with farmers with the aim of informing or agreeing on strategies, as well as exchanges of information on milk surpluses for their management.

According to the Court, the evidence analyzed shows that throughout the offending period, the companies, through the exchange of information, reduced the level of uncertainty between them, with the consequent decrease in competition and the bargaining power of the ranchers to control the supply market for raw cow's milk, which, according to the ruling, "configures the single and continuous infringement", regardless of the fact that not all companies have participated in all the conduct.

The Court, after analyzing the actions attributed to each of the companies, considers proven a cartel configured as a "single and continuous infringement" that would encompass practices of exchange of sensitive commercial information that could have materialized at certain times in price-fixing agreements. and market distribution.