Supermarkets guilty of fixing milk price

(Sacado de The Times, foto incluida). También en The Guardian

Interesante el sistema empleado para concertar las prácticas. Un código de señales para buenos entendedores.

Britain’s biggest supermarkets and its leading milk and cheese producers have been fined tens of millions of pounds for stitching consumers up at the dairy counter.

The Office of Fair Trading today handed down fines totalling £49.5 million to the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, Dairy Crest and Robert Wiseman for working together to co-ordinate price rises in 2002/3.

The companies were variously found guilty of three separate infringements by exchanging price change intentions indirectly through so-called A-B-C information exchange. A-B-C is said to be a long-established process in which retailers let suppliers or manufacturers know their pricing plans so that information gets passed on to rivals with the express intention of a free-flow of market intelligence coming back the other way.

John Fingleton, OFT chief executive, said: “This decision sends a strong signal to supermarkets, suppliers and other businesses that the OFT will take action and impose significant fines where it uncovers anti-competitive behaviour aimed at increasing the prices paid by consumers.”

However, the OFT’s ruling may not be the end of the matter as Tesco indicated it could challenge the watchdog’s ruling in the courts. Tesco was slapped with a £10.4 million fine for its role in cheese price-fixing in 2002 and 2003.

Sainsbury, which played a part in all three infringements including milk price fixing, was hit with the biggest fine of £11 million, even after a 35 per cent reduction for helping the OFT with its inquiries.

Asda received a fine of £9.4 million after a 45 per cent reduction. Safeway, now owned by Morrisons, received a £5.7 million fine.

Dairy Crest and Wiseman got 35 per cent reductions. Dairy Crest, which makes Country Life milk and butter and Cathedral City cheese, was hit with a £7.1 million fine, while Wiseman which accounts for one in three pints consumed in Britain, was fined £3.2 million.

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