L'Oreal receives fine in racism case

By Louise Prance

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fragrance brands

L'Oreal has reportedly been found guilty of excluding women of
colour from promoting its products, according to press reports.

The Garnier subsidiary of the leading cosmetics giant was last week ordered by a French civil appeals court to pay a fine of €30,000 after it was found guilty of being racially biased when employing staff in 2000, as reported by Reuters.

L'Oreal are allegedly up in arms about the verdict and have stated that Garnier will appeal the case, with the stigma attached to being involved in the case no doubt set to dent the company's reputation in the cosmetics industry.

The case is the first time in French history that a major company has been involved in a legal battle involving racial bias in staff hiring.

Evidence from prosecutors showed that that a fax had been issued by the France based company that any employees should be 'BBR', the initials for bleu, blanc and rouge, which are the colours of the French flag.

To this end prosecutors argued that 'BBR' was a racial shorthand used by extremists in France - singling out white French people and alienating applicants from Arab, Asian or African backgrounds.

Recruitment agency Adecco, the staffing agent involved in the racism claims, and communication firm Aijon were each fined penalties of €30,000 - with an employee of the agency being sentenced to a three-month suspended prison sentence.

Doubt regarding the three companies guilt surrounding the allegations caused a Paris court to dismiss the charges in June last year.

However, French prosecutors and a group formed to fight racism appealed the ruling, resulting in the guilty verdict found last week.

With the cosmetics industry being a high profile industry, manufacturers in the industry are sensitive and prone to criticism, with other leading companies being penalised by the courts.

Earlier this year upmarket beauty player Clarins also got caught up in legal proceedings, receiving a €500,000 fine from the French Conseil de la Concurrence (Competition Council) after being found guilty of price-fixing between 1997 and 2007.

The Conseil de la Concurrence began investigating price-fixing of prestige fragrances in France in 1998, culminating in a decision to fine 13 fragrance- and cosmetic-makers, together with three distribution companies that specialized in luxury goods.

In March last year the Commission fined the 13 fragrance brands and three distributors a total of €46.2m after it found them guilty of breaching anti-competition agreements.

Compared to the other fragrance brands involved in the investigation, Clarins fine was far less, reflecting the fact that the investigation deemed its involvement in the price-fixing to be less significant than the others.

Other leading fragrance brands that were fined included Shiseido France, Givenchy, Beaute Prestige, which represents Jean-Paul Gaultier and Issey Miyake, together with Kenzo Parfums.

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