German cartel office fines food companies 38 mn euros

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Three food companies, including units of Kraft Foods and Unilever, have been fined 38 million euros ($53.2 million) for sharing sensitive competitive information, a German watchdog said Thursday.

The two and the German company Dr. Oetker, were found guilty of violating competition laws by meeting over a period of several years to discuss negotiations with retailers, the cartel office said.

"Competition was hindered by these actions," a statement quoted office president Andreas Mundt as saying, "even though it was not a question of classic collusion on prices, territories or clients."

A fourth major food manufacturer is still being investigated, it added.

Authorities were alerted to the discussions by a worker at the German division of the US conglomerate Mars, which under cartel authority rules will not be fined as a result.

© 2011 AFP

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