France fines washing machine makers millions for price rigging
Whirlpool, Electrolux, Bosch’s BSH unit, Indesit, Candy Hoover and Eberhardt Frères hit for agreeing to price increases on washing machines, fridges or ovens
PARIS — France’s competition authority fined six home appliance makers a total of €189m on Thursday for price-rigging in 2006 and 2009, the largest penalty it has handed out so far in 2018.
Whirlpool, Electrolux, Bosch’s BSH unit, Indesit, Candy Hoover and Eberhardt Frères were fined for agreeing to price increases on washing machines, fridges or ovens, the competition authority said.
Since these firms account for 70% of the French household appliances market, the cartel had a major impact on prices paid by retailers and consumers, Isabelle de Silva, who heads the Autorite de la Concurrence, said.
The companies did not contest the fines and some even apologised to regulators for their behaviour, De Silva said.
The ruling found the companies colluded on sales prices to retailers in 2006 and in 2009 on the sidelines of official meetings of their federation the Gifam, and in chic Parisian restaurants.
The fines were the result of a probe started in 2012 after whistleblowers contacted French authorities.
De Silva said she wants the government to offer “some kind of reward” to whistleblowers, as happens in other countries.
Whirlpool paid the biggest fine of €56m while the Indesit entity, which was later bought by Whirlpool, received a separate, €46m fine. Electrolux was fined €48m, Candy Hoover €15m and Eberhardt Freres €1m.
BSH’s fine was cut 70%-80% from its initial amount down to €23m after it helped with the inquiry. Electrolux said in a statement that its fine is below the provision of €54m it had set aside.
The total fine is the biggest imposed by the antitrust body in 2018. The biggest penalty imposed so far was €951.2m in 2014 on a beauty products cartel.