Swiss oral care provider fined over parellel imports

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Oral care Switzerland International trade

Gaba International, which is owned by global oral care giant Colgate-Palmolive, has been fined by Swiss authorities for contravening competition regulations.

The Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) deemed that Gaba had prevented parallel imports from Austria and gave the company a CHF 4.8m (€3.2m) fine.

In its ruling COMCO said that Gaba had demanded that its Austrian license holder, Gebro Pharma, block imports of other dental products from Austria until September 2006.

Ban on parallel imports 'illegal'

COMCO declared that Gaba’s actions was an illegal ban on parallel imports from Austria to Switzerland.

The orginal contract was drawn up between Gaba and Gebro in 1982 and specified that the Austrian oral care brand Elmex, which is manufactured under license by Gebro, could not be imported into Switzerland.

Gaba believed that the Elmex brand would pose a threat to sales of its oral care products in Switzerland because its pricing strategy would have meant it was cheaper than its own brands.

Contract targeted Elmex brand

The companies modified the original contract in September 2006, after which time Gaba allowed the parallel import of Elmex oral care products into Switzerland.

Although Gaba has vehemently denied the accusations, consumer groups and retailers in Switzerland have welcomed the ruling and the subsequent fine.

Likewise, COMCO said that the case had underlined the emphasis it is now placing on the correct conduct of companies involved in parallel imports into Switzerland in the future.

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