Fines totaling €155m (US$172m) were imposed on the seven wholesalers of crop protection products and their managers for agreeing price lists, discounts and some individual prices for sales to retailers and end customers in Germany, said the Bundeskartellamt, in a statement released yesterday [January, 13].
A raid by the competition office terminated those anti-competitive practices in March 2015, added the officials.
Besides Agravis, the other companies fined were named as AGRO Agrargroßhandel GmbH & Co. KG, BayWa AG, Betriebsmittel Service Logistik GmbH & Co. KG, Getreide AG, Raiffeisen Waren GmbH, and ZG Raiffeisen eG.
One firm, Beiselen GmbH, which was the first company to cooperate with the authorities, was exempted from having to pay the financial penalties imposed. Two other companies are still under investigation, said the officials. Proceedings against three further companies and two associations have been discontinued.
“Our investigations have shown that the companies agreed on price lists for plant protection products in the spring and autumn of each year between 1998 and the dawn raid in March 2015. Their agreements were based on a joint calculation by the wholesalers that led to largely uniform price lists for retailers and end customers… during the first few years, some companies simply used the agreed price list to set their own prices and [they] basically just added their respective company logo to the final list,” said Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt.
Companies co-operated with officials
The authorities said that six of the companies concerned cooperated with investigators, acknowledging the facts as established by the Bundeskartellamt and agreeing to settle, a fact that was considered by the officials when calculating the fines.
Agravis agreed to pay a fine of €43.7m. In a company statement, chairman of the board of directors of Agravis Raiffeisen AG, Dr Dirk Köckler, said: “We have accepted that, according to the Bundeskartellamt, Agravis violated competition rules.”
The settlement, added Agravis, means it avoids a lengthy legal process that would have seen the company incur considerable financial and human resources costs.