GERMANY

German sausage makers fined 338 million euros for pricefixing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 9:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 9:52pm
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Some of the Germany's biggest food producers have been fined €338 million (HK$3.6 billion) for cooking up a plan to fix the price of sausages.

The Federal Cartel Authority (FCA), Germany's competition watchdog, said 21 manufacturers including the country's biggest producer, Zur-Muhlen-Gruppe, had been part of a cartel that had rigged sausage prices for decades. The Zur-Muhlen-Gruppe has denied the allegations.

"The price-fixing agreements were practised over many years," FCA president, Andreas Mundt said. The fine follows a wave of white-collar crime that has disgusted millions of Germans, with sugar producers and brewers also handed large fines for fixing prices.

The wurst-maker cartel has been dubbed the "Atlantic group" after the Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg where the sausage producers first met.

The inquiry was launched after the FCA received a tip off. The bumper fine will be paid by 33 individuals and 21 producers, including some household names in Germany such as Boklunder, Wiesenhof and Rugenwalder.

The FCA has imposed record fines totalling more than €900 million compared with €240 million last year. At the start of this year 11 breweries, including Danish brewer Carlsberg, were fined €338 million, while the country's three largest sugar producers received a €280 million fine for price fixing.

The FCA said it had evidence of a "basic consensus" among the manufacturers to inform one another about demands for price rises. The cartel met regularly but also reached agreements using "organised ring-round calls".

The Guardian