Commission opens investigation into possible collusion by two French grocery retailers
On 4 November 2019, the European Commission announced the opening of a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether Casino Guichard-Perrachon (known as Casino) and Les Mousquetaires (known as Intermarché) have coordinated their conduct in the market in violation of the EU cartel prohibition.
Casino and Intermarché are two of the largest chains of grocery retail shops in France. In November 2014, they set up a joint venture for the joint procurement alliance of their branded products.
The Commission is concerned that Casino and Intermarché went beyond the purpose of their alliance and engaged in anticompetitive conduct. The Commission will, therefore conduct an in-depth investigation, in particular, by examining whether Casino and Intermarché coordinated their activities on the development of their shop networks and their pricing policy.
If proven, Casino and Intermarché run the risk of being fined for a violation of the cartel prohibition.
Alliances and competition rules
In recent years, the number of alliances has increased rapidly. In the Guidelines on horizontal cooperation agreements, the Commission notes that alliances usually aim at the creation of purchasing power, which can lead to lower prices or better quality products or services for consumers. To the extent that such benefits are passed on to consumers, retailers’ alliances may have a positive effect.
Alliances can, however, also give rise to competition concerns. The multiple contacts between retailers can result in collusion of retail sales activities. The growth in number of alliances and the changes in partners in alliances have enhanced the opportunities and risks of such collusion.
Are you involved in an alliance or thinking about forming an alliance, and do you have questions regarding its admissibility with the competition rules? Do not hesitate to contact us. Loyens & Loeff has extensive experience in this respect and we would be pleased to advise and assist you.