The European Commission launched formal investigation on Monday into whether two of France’s biggest supermarkets are in breach of European Union competition rules by colluding on sales activities.
The Commission wants to find out whether Casino and Intermarche (owned by Les Mousquetaires) engaged in “anticompetitive conduct” via a buying alliance they set up in 2014.
Specifically, the investigation will focus on whether the two supermarkets coordinated their activities on the development of their shop networks and their pricing policy for consumers.
Purchasing alliances are permitted by the EU if they are used for the joint procurement of branded products. The cooperation agreements are used to foster purchasing power, which can ultimately lead to lower prices or better quality products for consumers.
In this case, the EU is concerned that the alliance between Casino and Intermarche, the multiple contacts between retailers, has led them to collude on their retail sales activities.
Joint-buying “can bring lower prices to consumers for food and personal care brands that they purchase on a daily basis,” said EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a . “Such benefits can, however, disappear quickly if retailers use these alliances to collude on their sales activities.”
The Commission conducted unannounced inspections of each supermarket in February 2017 and May 2019 as part of a preliminary inquiry into possible collusion through purchasing alliances.
There is no deadline for the completion of an antitrust investigation and their duration depends on factors such as the complexity of the case and whether the companies involved are cooperative.
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