In a July 24 2014 decision the Competition Authority imposed a €1.7 million fine on Société Nouvelle des Yaourts de Littée (SNYL) on the grounds that it had abused its dominant position on the market for ultra-fresh products in the French West Indies by making disparaging comments concerning the dairy products of one of its closest competitors, Laiterie de Saint-Malo.
The investigation was launched after SNYL complained to the French General Directorate for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control that its competitor Laiterie de Saint-Malo did not comply with certain applicable regulations. The authority then examined the case and found that SNYL had tried to weaken its competitor's position by making comments to professionals to give rise to suspicions regarding the freshness of Laiterie de Saint-Malo's products, based on bacteriological analysis results that were devoid of scientific objectivity. SNYL also alleged non-compliance with use-by dates, whereas the practice at issue was still tolerated.
This disparagement policy resulted in Laiterie de Saint-Malo's exclusion from trade union Syndifrais and the delisting of its products in one local store, due to the distributor's sensitivity to health risks.
The case shows that complaints about a competitor for alleged regulatory breaches should be considered only if the dominant company is irreproachable in the comments that it makes in other circumstances on the market about the same competitor.
For further information on this topic please contact Emmanuelle van den Broucke or Sara Pomar at Dentons by telephone (+33 1 4268 4800), fax (+33 1 4268 1545) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Dentons website can be accessed at www.dentons.com.