The Commission adopted a settlement decision in June 2014 concerning the participation in this same cartel of Bonduelle, Lutèce and Prochamp. Riberebro chose not to settle and consequently the investigation continued under the normal cartel procedure. The Commission sent Riberebro a statement of objections in May 2015, giving it the opportunity to exercise its rights of defence.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Access to food at competitive prices is essential for European consumers. The cartel for canned mushrooms affected sales to retailers throughout Europe. Today's decision once again shows the Commission's determination to sanction cartels and impose fines on all cartel participants."
The cartel concerned canned mushrooms sold in tins and jars (i.e. not fresh or frozen mushrooms) for private label sales in the European Economic Area (EEA) . These sales are carried out via tender procedures to retailers and food wholesalers such as cash and carry companies, as well as to professional customers such as catering companies.
The overall aim of the cartelists was to stabilise their market shares and stop a decline in prices. To achieve this, the cartel members exchanged confidential information on tenders, set minimum prices, agreed on volume targets and allocated customers among themselves. The cartel was a non-aggression pact with a compensation scheme in case of customer transfer and application of minimum prices which had been agreed beforehand. The Commission found that Riberebro participated in the cartel from 10 September 2010 until 28 February 2012.
The fine was set on the basis of the Commission's 2006 Guidelines on fines (see Press release and MEMO). The Commission took into account, in particular, the company's sales of the products concerned in the EEA, the serious nature of the infringement, its geographic scope and its duration, the appropriate level of deterrence and the company's ability to pay the fine.
Under the Commission's 2006 Leniency Notice, Riberebro received a reduction of 50% for cooperating with the investigation.
The fine imposed is as follows:
Reduction under the Leniency Notice Final fine (€)
Riberebro (ES) 50% 5 194 000
The Commission's investigation started with unannounced inspections on 28 February 2012.
On 25 June 2014, the Commission fined Lutèce, Prochamp and Bonduelle €32 million for their participation in this cartel.
More information on this case is available under the case number 39965 in the public case register on the Commission's competition website. Once confidentiality issues have been dealt with, this decisionwill also be published there.
For more information on the Commission’s action against cartels, see its cartels website.
Action for damages
Any person or firm affected by anti-competitive behaviour as described in this case may bring the matter before the courts of the Member States and seek damages. The case law of the Court and Council Regulation 1/2003 both confirm that in cases before national courts, a Commission decision is binding proof that the behaviour took place and was illegal. Even though the Commission has fined the companies concerned, damages may be awarded without being reduced on account of the Commission fine.
The Antitrust Damages Directive, which the Member States have to implement in their legal systems by 27 December 2016, makes it easier for victims of anti-competitive practices to obtain damages. More information on antitrust damages actions, including a practical guide on how to quantify antitrust harm, is available here.