The case started in January 2014 with a leniency application by Coroos, a Dutch fruit and vegetable manufacturer. The Coroos group benefited from a total fine exemption under the leniency procedure for its cooperation during the investigation. The same cannot be said for the other participants in this French national dimension cartel that lasted from October 2010 to January 2014. In October 2022, the Paris Court of Appeal confirmed the conviction of the main French compote manufacturers for price fixing and market sharing, but drastically reduced the initial sanction by almost half.
The French Competition Authority's decision (decision No 19-D-24, December 17th 2019)
Following the leniency application and dawn raids, the French Competition Authority found that between October 2010 and January 2014, the cartel members decided to set up a comprehensive plan to increase the selling prices of compotes to retailers, to agree on a common discourse justifying these price increases, and finally, to share out the volumes and customers. The investigation revealed that the cartel covered a very large share of the markets. The French Competition Authority fined the companies €58.3 million.
The partial reversal of the decision (Paris Court of Appeal, Octobre 6th 2022, No 20/01494)
The Paris Court of Appeal confirmed the practices sanctioned but reformed the decision regarding the duration of the individual participation of the companies in the cartel. This led to a change in the reference year for the calculation of the penalty and explains the significant decrease in the penalty. In addition, the Court adjusted the considerations retained by the Authority regarding the seriousness of the practices and the damage to the economy.
Finally, the overall amount imposed on the members of the cartel was reduced by almost 50% bringing the penalty to €31 million.
Bird & Bird Paris represented Conserves France in this case.