AdC issued SO to Modelo Continente, Pingo Doce, Auchan and Johnson & Johnson for aligning consumer prices
Press Release 02/2022
The AdC (Portuguese Competition Authority) has issued one Statement of Objections to three food distribution groups Modelo Continente, Pingo Doce and Auchan and the supplier of personal care products Johnson&Johnson for concerted practices of aligning consumer prices in supermarkets.
After investigation, the AdC concluded that there are indications that three of the main supermarket chains present in Portugal used their business relationship with one of the most important suppliers of personal hygiene and care products to align the retail prices of the latter's main products, to the detriment of consumers.
The practice under investigation
The investigated conduct lasted for more than fifteen years, having developed between 2001 and 2016.
If confirmed, the conduct in question is very serious. It is a practice known in competition terminology as hub-and-spoke, whereby distribution chains, while not communicating directly with each other as in cartel cases, use bilateral contacts with the supplier to ensure, through the supplier, that they all have the same retail price.
This is a practice that harms consumers, depriving them of the option to choose the price of the products they buy at the big retailers.
This Statement of Objections concludes the investigation phase of the hub-and-spoke cases opened by the AdC following searches conducted in 2017, adding to the nine cases in which the AdC has adopted Statement of Objections and the five in which it has adopted final sanctioning decisions.
The AdC stresses that the Statement of Objection, adopted on 15 March 2022, does not determine the final outcome of the investigation. At this stage of the process, the parties concerned are given the opportunity to exercise their rights to be heard and to defend themselves in relation to the offences they are accused of and the sanctions they may incur.