EU regulators on Wednesday fined consumer products companies Procter & Gamble and Unilever a total of 315.2 million euros ($456 million) for price-fixing on powdered laundry detergent together with Henkel in eight EU countries.
U.S.-based Procter & Gamble Co. has to pay 211.2 million euros ($306 million), while British-Dutch company Unilever NV was fined 104 million euros ($150 million). Both companies had their fines reduced because they agreed to settle the case with the Commission and cooperating with the investigation.
The three companies are the leading producers for washing powder in Europe, the Commission said. Unilever makes laundry detergents including OMO and Radiant; Procter & Gamble owns the Ariel and Tide brands; while Henkel produces Persil.
The cartel was started when the companies were in joint talks on how to cut down on packaging, said the EU's Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.
"They used this environmental initiative to agree on market share and to agree on not reducing the prices even if the packages were smaller," Almunia said.
The cartel lasted from Jan. 2002 until March 2005 and covered Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands, the Commission said.
Unilever said the fine falls below provisions already made in the company's 2010 results. "Unilever believes it is in the best interests of the company for Unilever and the Commission to have reached this settlement," it said in a statement.
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