France imposes huge price-rigging fines on washing machine makers

PARIS, 7 Dec 2018: 

France’s competition authority yesterday fined six home appliance makers a total of €189 million for price-rigging in 2006 and 2009, the largest penalty it has handed out so far this year.

Whirlpool, Electrolux, Bosch’s BSH unit, Indesit, Candy Hoover and Eberhardt Frères were fined for agreeing 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, said Isabelle de Silva, who heads the Autorite de la Concurrence.

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 such as La Duree or Corona Imperial.

The fines were the result of a probe started in 2012 after whistleblowers contacted French authorities.

De Silva said she wanted the government to offer “some kind of reward” to whistleblowers, as happens in other countries.

Whirlpool paid the biggest fine of €56 million while the Indesit entity – which was later bought by Whirlpool – got a separate €46 million fine.

Electrolux was fined €48 million, Candy Hoover €15 million and Eberhardt Freres €1 million.

BSH’s fine was cut by 70-80% from its initial amount down to €23 million after it helped with the inquiry.

Electrolux said in a statement that its fine was below the provision of €54 million it had set aside.

The total fine is the biggest imposed by the antitrust body in 2018. The biggest penalty imposed so far was €951.2 million in 2014 on a beauty products cartel.

– Reuters