On 12 October 2011, the European Commission imposed a fine of €8.9m on Firma Leon Van Parys NV’s Pacific Fruit unit, which imports bananas to Europe under the brand name “Bonita”, for its involvement in a cartel which affected customers in Italy, Greece and Portugal from July 2004–April 2005. During that period, the companies had fixed weekly sales and exchanged price information. Commenting on the latest cartel decision, Competition Commissioner Almunia said “[T]here are only two ways to avoid a fine: refrain from joining a cartel or, if you have fallen for it, repent rapidly and inform the Commission about it...”
The other company involved in the cartel, Chiquita Brands International Inc, the world’s biggest banana producer, clearly had acted on this advice. It received full immunity from the fines because it was the first to inform the Commission of the infringement. This was the second time that Chiquita had ‘repented’ in recent years. In 2008 it avoided EU fines for blowing the whistle in a similar case in which Dole Food Co. and Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. were fined €60m for fixing the price of bananas with Chiquita.