Flour Millers Fined $317 Million by French Antitrust Authority

March 13 (Bloomberg) -- France’s competition regulator fined French and German flour millers about 242 million euros ($317 million) for anticompetitive practices in the retail market.

A 14-member Franco-German cartel was fined 95.5 million euros for conspiring between 2002 and 2008 to limit flour exports between the two countries. A German miller contacted the Paris-based regulator about the cartel and the agency opened the investigation in 2008. The informing company, Wilh. Werhahn KG, avoided a 16.7 million-euro fine.

The Autorite de la Concurrence also fined seven French flour companies, including three that were involved in the Franco-German cartel, a total of 147 million euros for price fixing. The millers were members of France Farine and Bach Muehle, two cooperatives that handled the retail sales for their members to supermarkets and discount markets in France, and conspired to set the prices artificially high.

While such alliances are allowed to strengthen the market, “the real goal of France Farine and Bach Muehle was to fix the price of flour and divide clients between the different millers,” the regulator said in a statement on the decision.

Bach Muehle’s listing wasn’t available in French telephone directories and France Farine didn’t immediately respond to messages requesting comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Smith in Paris at hsmith26@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.