The highest fines were given to retailers Carrefour and Colruyt, €36.4 million and €31.6 million respectively, while P&G picked up the largest fine of the manufacturers (€29.1m).
Colgate-Palmolive was included in the guilty 18, but was the only one not fined because it alerted authorities to the cartel.
The Authority says that the companies coordinated price increases for drugstore, perfumery and hygiene (DPH) products between 2002 and 2007.
“The infringement consisted of the repeated organization, at retail level, on the whole of the Belgian territory, of coordinated increases of end-consumer prices of branded DPH products of the suppliers involved,” says a statement from the competition watchdog.
“The coordinated price increases concerned a large number of branded DPH products sold in the retail in Belgium and followed each other repeatedly throughout the period of infringement which lasted between 2002 and 2007, although the duration of the participation in the infringement varied between the companies involved. The coordinated price increases yielded variable results.”
As part of the settlement procedure, all of the guilty parties acknowledged their involvement in the infringement as set out in the decision, as well as the sanction imposed on, and benefited in this respect from a 10% reduction of the fine.
Along with P&G, the other cosmetics manufacturers: L’Oréal (€7.99m), Unilever (€6.70m), Henkel (€5.68m), Beiersdorf (€5.10m), and GSK (€554,000) received fines.
GSK’s fine was reduced by 50% as it had applied through the leniency program and was granted a reduction of the otherwise applicable fines, as was Reckitt Benckiser (received a 25% reduction), and as mentioned above Colgate had its fines waived as it was the first applicant.
The 18 was made up by Belgian retailers Cora, Delhaize, Intermarché, Makro and Mesdagh, and suppliers Bolton, Belgium Retail Trading, and DE HBC Belgium.
Given the settlement decision, the parties will now withdraw their appeal before the Brussels Court of Appeal, as they agreed in the framework of the settlement procedure.
The settlement procedure is a new tool that the Code of Economic law has given to the Investigation and Prosecution Service in order to simplify and expedite the procedure leading to the adoption of a final decision.
The settlement decision cannot be appealed.