Manufacturers of home appliances have approved a price agreement

The competition authority sanctioned six appliance manufacturers to agree on the price increases demanded from distributors. The total penalty, which amounts to € 189 million, is the largest issued by the institution in 2018.

The competition authority washes more white! On 6 December, he sanctioned six manufacturers (1) of household appliances, called "home appliances" by specialists (refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, etc.). Including the agreements on illegal prices proposed by distributors between 2006 and 2009.

In twelve years, the Autorité de la Concurrence has imposed itself

Price and "psychological thresholds"

The first illegal deal involved the increase in so-called "recommended sales prices" for retail sales. These indications are mostly localized, as indicated by the Autorité de la concurrence, a psychological thresholds ", Fixed with amounts lower than a round figure of the type" € 199 ".

On several occasions, producers would meet in secret to apply the same increases in the recommended sales prices in a coordinated way: € 20 for devices under € 200, € 30 for those between € 200 and € 400 and € 50 for products higher than € 400 .. This would have resulted in a mechanical effect of retail price increases by distributors, since an increase in recommended prices led to resale purchase prices …

According to the Autorité de la concurrence, these practices have therefore helped to limit the general downward trend in prices in the sector, given that Asian competitors have entered the market. It should be noted that the producers have also agreed the applicable trade conditions with the cooks who also install their equipment.

First clues

The total sanction amounts to € 189 million, the largest imposed by the institution in 2018 and the tenth overall since 2000. The broader date of 2014, for an agreement in the products and hygiene products sector. maintenance, with a total fine of 951 million euros.

The first indices were transmitted in 2011 and 2012 by small local businesses to the territorial branches of DGCCRF (Directorate General for Competition, Consumers and Fraud Control). Hence the evidence accumulated as a result of various visits and seizures of documents carried out by the competition authority.

Leniency procedure

The fines range from one million euros (Eberhardt Frères) to 56 million euros for Whirlpool and can be explained by the fact that none of the companies has denied the facts. One of them, BSH, even benefited from a partial clemency procedure. This practice allows companies to reduce fines, or even a total exemption, if they disclose an agreement in which they participated.

The anti-cartel gendarme competition authority … When companies report their accomplices.

In the case of BSH, the clemency is only partial because it has only added complementary elements.

According to Isabelle de Silva, the president of the competition authority, this case demonstrates "That there are still many signs in France in the main sectors of the economy: this is a worrying element".

Michel Waintrop

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