Friday 27 September 2019 2:55 pm

Jacques and the bean hoax: French firm fined over veg cartel

A French and a Dutch company have been fined nearly €32m (£28m) for a 13-year cartel which pushed up the price of green beans, peas and canned vegetables.

The European Commission said it was charging France’s Cecab €18m, while Coroos, a Dutch company, will have to pay €13.6m for taking part in the cartel.

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However Bonduelle, a French giant in the canned vegetable space, avoided a much bigger €250m fine because it lifted the lid on the stew of peas, carrots and sweetcorn.

Cecab and Coroos both had their fines reduced for cooperating with the authorities.

“European consumers should have access to food at affordable prices. But instead of competing with each other, Coroos and Groupe Cecab agreed to divide the market among themselves and to fix prices for canned vegetables across Europe,” said competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

She added: “They did so for over a decade. These cartels ultimately hurt European consumers and with today’s decision we send a clear message to companies that cartels are not accepted.”

The Commission said the companies had tried to “preserve or strengthen their position”. To this purpose they fixed prices, agreed on market shares and quotas and split up markets and customers between them.

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Vestager and her team said they were continuing to investigate a fourth company, Conserve Italia.

The Commission said it had reduced the fine for one of the companies as the firm claims it could not pay. It did not reveal which.