German antitrust authorities have dished out fines totalling €338 million to 21 producers and 33 ‘responsible persons’ as part of a crack-down on an illegal price fixing cartel that goes back decades.
According to the German Federal Cartel Office, well-known sausage producers in Germany have been meeting with regularity decades in s so-called ‘Atlantic Circle’ - named after its first meeting at the Atlantic Hotel in Hamburg - to discuss market developments and prices.
The companies punished included Nestlé subsidiary Herta and Vion owned Lutz Fleischwaren, as well as Bell Deutschland Holding, Meica, Boeklunder and Wiesenhof. The Federal Cartel Office gives no information about the individual fines, but the full list of companies implicated is given below.
‘Price range’ voting
The authorities noted that because of the wide variation in products – such as different types of sausage and different pack sizes – the cartel did not define specific individual prices, instead voting on price ranges for product groups including raw, boiled, cooked sausage and ham.
As a result, higher asking prices to the retail industry on the basis of the cartel agreement could be enforced, it said.
Andreas Mundt President of the German cartel office ‘Bundeskartellamt’ said the fines may look high "but they are put into perspective by the large number of companies involved, how long the cartel lasted and the billions made in revenue on the market."
During the procedure a total of 11 companies cooperated with the authority, including admitting the charges. In respect of this cooperation some firms were given reduced fines, said the antitrust authority.
Whilst unable to give details of any specific fines, the Bundeskartellamt said in a press statement that the fines range from ‘a few hundred thousand euros up to high millions’, adding that the legally prescribed fine imposed for many of the companies involved was 10% of total sales. For 15 participating small and medium-sized companies the average fine amounts to a low single-digit million amount corresponding to an average of around 2% of their annual turnover, it added.
Companies will have two weeks to file any appeal with the Court of Appeal in Dusseldorf.
- - Bell Deutschland Holding GmbH, Seevetal (formerly Abraham/Zimbo, Coop-Gruppe);
- Böklunder Plumrose GmbH & Co. KG, Böklund/Könecke Fleischwarenfabrik GmbH & Co. KG, Bremen (Zur Mühlen-Gruppe, ClemensTönnies-Gruppe);
- Döllinghareico GmbH & Co. KG, Elmshorn;
- Herta GmbH, Herten (Nestlé);
- Franz Wiltmann GmbH & Co. KG, Versmold;
- H. Kemper GmbH & Co. KG, Notrup;
- H. & E. Reinert Holding GmbH & Co. KG, Versmold/ Sickendiek Fleischwarenfabrik GmbH & Co. KG, Neuenkirchen-Vörden;
- Hans Kupfer & Sohn GmbH & Co. KG, Heilsbronn;
- Heidemark Mästerkreis GmbH & Co. KG, Emstek-Höltinghausen;
- Heinrich Nölke GmbH & Co. KG, Versmold;
- Höhenrainer Delikatessen GmbH, Feldkirchen-Westerham;
- Lutz Fleischwaren GmbH, Landsberg am Lech (Vion);
- Marten Vertriebs GmbH & Co. KG, Gütersloh;
- Meica Ammerländische Fleischwarenfabrik Fritz Meinen GmbH & Co. KG, Edewecht;
- Metten Fleischwaren GmbH & Co. KG, Finnentrop;
- Ponnath DIE MEISTERMETZGER GmbH, Kemnath;
- Rudolf und Robert Houdek GmbH, Starnberg;
- Rügenwalder Mühle Carl Müller GmbH & Co. KG; Bad Zwischenahn;
- Westfälische Fleischwarenfabrik Stockmeyer GmbH, Sassenberg (heristo AG);
- Wiesenhof Geflügelwurst GmbH & Co. KG, Rietberg (PHW-Gruppe) und
- Willms Fleisch GmbH, Ruppichteroth