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Antitrust Law

EU Fines Procter & Gamble for Laundry Detergent ‘Cartel’

Posted Apr 13, 2011 2:45 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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The European Union on Wednesday announced it’s fining Procter & Gamble $305.1 million on charges that the Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 company conspired to fix laundry detergent prices in eight countries.

Unilever, a British-Dutch company, was also fined $150.2 million by the EU, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The union claims that the two companies, along with German detergent manufacturer Henkel, formed a “cartel” to set prices on powdered laundry detergent. Initially the companies began working together on a voluntary plan to reduce the environmental impact of powdered detergent.

"They sought to ensure that no one could use this initiative to gain a competitive advantage over the others, so they agreed to protect their respective market shares," Joaquin Almunia, the EU commission's vice-president in charge of competition policy, told the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). "They agreed also not to decrease prices when decreasing the size of packages, and afterwards, they even agreed to a price increase."

Henkel was not fined because it alerted the EU of the scheme, regulators said. Fines for Procter & Gamble and Unilever were reduced because they cooperated in the investigation and agreed to settle.

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