Following the European Commission's lead, the national competition authorities are paying increasing attention to consumer goods. The Belgian Competition Authority is no exception and has been focusing its investigations on anti-competitive practices in the consumer goods sector.
The College of Competition Prosecutors (Auditoraat/Auditorat) announced yesterday that it has concluded its investigation and transferred a report to the Competition Council (Raad voor de mededinging/Conseil de la concurrence) finding that supermarkets and suppliers colluded to raise the prices of household, body care and hygiene products. According to the report, seven major supermarkets and eleven leading suppliers of the aforementioned goods allegedly conspired to increase retail prices between 2002 and 2007.
The Belgian Competition Authority has a two-tier structure, in which the prosecution service is separate from the decision-making body.
The College of Competition Prosecutors launched its investigation in 2007 with dawn raids at several supermarkets, suppliers and distributors.
The Competition Council, the decision-making arm of the Competition Authority, must now decide whether there was a violation of competition law. Before taking a decision, the Competition Council will invite the investigated entities to submit written observations, in which they can respond to the allegations and present their version of the facts. The Competition Council will also hear the undertakings in question.
The report of the College of Competition Prosecutors does not foretell the decision of the Competition Council.