France’s Competition Authority (the Autorité de la Concurrence), has fined 11 French endive growers and several of their professional bodies 3.6 million euros (approximately AUD4.8 million) for taking part in a price-fixing cartel. The Authority found that an organised and elaborate system was in operation from 1998 until 2012 and those involved were aware of the unlawfulness of their practices. Those unlawful practices included compulsory destruction of produce to manage the volumes of endives available for sale and use of a computerised information exchange tool to monitor sale prices. Seven industry associations and unions were also fined 320,000 euros (approximately AUD407,000) for their role in the cartel.
In determining the fines, the Commission made allowance for the limited harm caused by the cartel to the economy. It noted that the cartel did not significantly affect the price of endives paid by consumers because retailers, the main customers of endive growers, were able to force prices downwards through their buying power.