Beauty giants face €951m fine for price fixing

Those affected include L'Oréal, Unilever, Reckitt benkiser, P&G and Gilette

A group of cosmetics and household product companies are being fined €951m by France's competition authority, the Autorité de la Concurrence.

In total, 13 companies have been fined by the watchdog including L'Oréal, Unilever, Reckitt Benkiser, P&G, Gillette, Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Beiersdorf and Johnson & Johnson's Laboratoires Vendôme.

The companies are being accused of colluding on price increases between 2003 and 2006. They are said to have been caught meeting in restaurants to exchange correspondence concerning the coordination of price negotiations with distributors, as well as in their private homes.

The authority reportedly caught wind of the illegal activity due to a tip off by Henkel, Colgate-Palmolive and SC Johnson. As a result, the three companies are to benefit from leniency procedures.

L'Oréal is facing the biggest share of the fines, totalling €189.5m, while Anglo-Dutch personal care products maker Unilever faces a €172.5m payment – the second largest fine. German cosmetics company Henkel is due to pay €109m and Beiersdorf is being fined €72m.

In a statement, L'Oréal said it would appeal the decision: “L'Oréal refutes accusations of anti-competitive activity with its competitors, and regrets that the French Competition Authority did not take into account the highly competitive French market in hygiene products as illustrated by the number of manufacturers and retailers present on the market, the large choice of products available to consumers and the degree of innovation and number of launches. L'Oréal is extremely surprised by this decision and the amount of the fine which are totally out of proportion.”

Unilever is also said to be appealing the decision.

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