Carrefour, Colruyt Get Biggest Fines in Belgian Cartel Case

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Carrefour SA and Colruyt SA face the biggest penalties as Belgium’s competition authority fined 17 supermarkets and suppliers a total of 174 million euros ($198.2 million) for plotting to fix prices of healthcare products and toiletries.

Carrefour agreed to pay 36.4 million euros, followed by Colruyt’s 31.6 million euros fine, according to details of a settlement with the Belgian agency made public on Monday.

The coordinated price increases concerned a large number of branded products between 2002 and 2007, the Belgian watchdog said. Colgate-Palmolive Co. blew the whistle on the infringement and escaped a penalty. Procter & Gamble Co., Delhaize Group SA and L’Oreal SA agreed to pay 29.1 million euros, 24.9 million euros and 8 million euros respectively.

The fines follow a combined penalty of more than $1 billion in a similar case in France. L’Oreal was among a group of companies sanctioned in December over allegations of a conspiracy to rig the prices of products including shampoo and toothpaste.

The Belgian settlement decision cannot be appealed. Other companies fined include GlaxoSmithKline Plc, the Belgian arm of Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc, Beiersdorf AG and Henkel AG.

Colruyt said it abandoned its profit forecast as it will record the full amount of the fine in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

“We must admit that over 10 years ago our internal control processes were not as optimized as they are today,” Frans Colruyt, the company’s chief operations officer for retail, said in a statement.

Carrefour Belgium “accepts” the decision, according to company spokesman Baptiste van Outryve.

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