National court confirms milk cartel and fines for Pascual, Central Lechera Galicia, Lactalis and Nestlé.

The Dispute-Administrative Chamber of the National Court confirmed this Wednesday the CNMC’s decision of July 2019, which considered that a dairy company, including Pascual, Danone, Lactalis or Nestlé, among others, and two associations formed a cartel to exchange sensitive commercial information. Coordinating the purchase of milk in Spain.

Specifically, the court issued nine sentences, one for each of the applicant companies, confirming the fine of 8.5 million euros imposed on Calidad Pascual; €53,310 Central Lechera in Galicia; 11.6 million Grupo Lactalis Iberia; 6.8 million for Nestlé and €929,644 for Schreiber Food España, as recorded in various national court decisions.

Regarding these sanctions, the Chamber rejected the argument of the companies that challenged the competition ruling that they consider them arbitrary and considered that “they are motivated and disproportionate” because they are below average. A maximum sanction, with a percentage to suit the particular circumstances of the parties involved.

However, the court partially upheld the complaint of Comercial Alimentaria Peñasanta, which was fined 21.8 million euros; Danone, with 20.2 million euros; Industrias Lácteas Granada (Puleva), sanctioned with 10.2 million euros; and the Association of Galician Dairy Companies (AELGA), after “finding out that a certain part of the investigated period has been established”.

Thus, the chamber asked the competition to recalculate these fines taking into account the periods considered to have been imposed for each of them, and in the case of Aelga the court confirms that it participated in the cartel, but canceled the fine of 60,000 euros. “Because of a lack of motivation.”

Thus, the penalties confirm the sanctions for “very serious” violations of Article 1 of Law 15/2007 and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in competition matters investigated by the companies between 2000 and 2013.

The court considers the “exchange 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 those companies that have a relevant role in the dairy sector to be confirmed. Through two researched associations, the most representative of the sector.

It also sees accredited contacts with farmers to inform or agree on strategies and exchange information for managing their milk surplus.

According to the court, the analyzed evidence shows that during the infringement period, the companies, through the exchange of information, reduced the level of uncertainty between them, which resulted in a decrease in competition and the bargaining power of ranchers to control the supply market. on raw cow’s milk, which, according to the ruling, “constitutes a single and continuous violation,” even though not all companies engaged in all of the conduct.

The court, after analyzing the actions attributable to each company, considers the cartel to be configured as a “one-time and continuous violation” that involved the practice of exchanging sensitive commercial information that could at some point be implemented in price-fixing agreements. market distribution.

Source: El Diario

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