Auchan “totally refutes” practices imputed by the AdC and will appeal

The AdC fined the supermarket chains Auchan, Modelo Continente and Pingo Doce, as well as the joint alcoholic beverage supplier Active Brands/Gestvinus, by €5.6 million for participating in a price-fixing scheme.

“Auchan totally refutes the practices imputed to it by the Competition Authority in the Final Decision within the scope of the administrative offense process and will appeal the decision adopted in court, naturally exercising the rights provided for in the Competition Law”, said the company, in a note sent to Lusa.

The group also guaranteed that “all the training and control processes of its employees are internally ensured in order to avoid any type of behavior that may result in the violation of competition rules”.

In a statement released today, the AdC indicated that it “sanctioned three supermarket chains – Auchan, Modelo Continente and Pingo Doce – as well as the joint supplier of alcoholic beverages Active Brands/Gestvinus and a manager of this company, for having participated in a consumer selling prices (PVP) of that supplier’s products”.

According to the same note, “the investigation conducted by the AdC showed that the participating distribution companies ensured the alignment of retail prices in their supermarkets through contacts established through the common supplier, without the need to communicate directly with each other”, said the regulator.

“Such a practice eliminates competition, depriving consumers of the option of better prices, but ensuring better levels of profitability for the entire distribution chain, including supplier and supermarket chains”, underlined the AdC.

According to Competition, “for the present infraction, a total fine of 5,665,178 euros was imposed”, and, according to the published data, Ative Brands was fined 2.3 million euros, Modelo Continente in 1.4 million euros, Pingo Doce at 1.2 million euros, Auchan at 660 thousand euros and the individual responsible at 5,178 euros.

The AdC recalled that in November 2020 “it issued the Nota de Ilicitude (or note of indictment) concerning this case, having subsequently given the opportunity to all companies and the individual responsible to exercise their rights of hearing and defense, which was duly considered in the final decision”.

Thus, in the present case, the Competition “determined that the practice lasted more than eight years – between 2009 and 2017 – and targeted various products of the supplier, such as wines, spirits and liqueurs/snacks. The large distribution processes decided between 2020 and 2022 included sanctions on six supermarket chains and nine suppliers for the anti-competitive ‘hub-and-spoke’ practice,” he recalled.

The AdC also recalled that the fines it imposes are “determined by the turnover of the companies sanctioned in the markets affected in the years of practice”, and that “according to the Competition Law, the fines cannot exceed 10% of the turnover of the company in the year prior to the sanction decision and 10% of the annual remuneration earned in the last year of the infraction, in the case of natural persons”.

When setting these fines, “the AdC takes into account the gravity and duration of the infringement, the degree of participation of the companies in the infringement, the economic situation of the companies, among other circumstances, in accordance with the best international practices”, according to the same note.

ALYN // MSF

Lusa/End

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