Six major appliance brands, including the world's two largest, Electrolux and Whirlpool, have been fined €189 million by French consumer agency la DGCCRF for playing a part in a price-fixing agreement.
A four-year-long investigation by la Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF) found that six major companies had colluded to agree on an increase their recommended selling prices to distributors, increasing their own margins to the detriment of consumers, the agency found.
The companies named as being a part of this debacle were: BSH Group (Bosch, Siemens, Neff), Candy Hoover, Liebherr, Electrolux (AEG, Zanussi), Indesit (Ariston, Hotpoint) and Whirlpool.
The companies involved used the meetings to agree on baseline sales prices that they would each recommended to distributors, below which they would all agree not to drop, the DGCCRF agency said. With these meetings said to take place between September 2006 and April 2009.
The companies were found to have agreed on a sliding scale of uniform surcharges; €20 for appliances sold for less than €200, €30 for those at €200-€400; and €50 for sales worth more. In other words, pumping up the prices to distributors.
This was all apparently found to have been agreed “at the highest levels of the companies during secret meetings”, according to Isabelle de Silva, who presided over the DGCCRF investigation. In other words, the companies knew fine well what they were doing and, they got caught.
The price fixing was found to have been in place on a variety of appliances manufactured by the companies, including fridge freezers, washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, hobs, and ovens.
The companies were fined based on the size and severity of the infraction.
Whirlpool was fined €56 million.
Electrolux €48 million.
Indesit €46 million.
Liebherr, which was found to be the least implicated, and fined just €1 million.
German manufacturer BSH - which is owned by a foundation - even applied for “leniency” from investigators in exchange for closer collaboration with them and was given a fine reduction as a result. Which kinda made us chuckle as BSH would appear from that to have turned on the others, good luck with collaboration in the future after that if it's required.
It must be said though that the manufacturers that have been slapped with this have said that the appliance market has not been flourishing in the past four years (yeah, duh!), and that their costs had been rising despite prices stagnating or dropping.
The DGCCRF agency said that; “The damage to the end consumer has been relatively limited.”
Thing is though if this was going on in France and given these are global companies we'd hazard that other markets were likely to be affected and more so EU countries as they will tend to be. Controlled but the same people that are ultimately in charge of the French market and that includes the UK.