Canada accuses Mars, Nestle of price-fixing

Canada accuses Mars, Nestle of price-fixing

OTTAWA - Agence France-Presse
Canada accuses Mars, Nestle of price-fixing

Canadian Competition Bureau charges Nestle, Mars and a network of independent distributors over claims of fixing prices of chocolates in Canada. AFP photo

Canadian authorities charged Nestle, Mars and a network of independent wholesale distributors on June 6 over an alleged criminal conspiracy to fix the prices of leading chocolate bars.

Competition Commissioner John Pecman called their alleged actions “egregious anti-competitive behavior that harms Canadian consumers” and “a serious criminal offense.” A whistleblower triggered the investigation that uncovered “evidence suggesting that the accused conspired, agreed or arranged to fix prices of chocolate products,” the Competition Bureau said in a statement.

Three individuals were also charged: Robert Leonidas, former president of Nestle Canada; Sandra Martinez, former president of Confectionery for Nestle Canada; and David Glenn Stevens, head of Canadian food distributor ITWAL. If convicted, they face a fine of up to $9.75 million and imprisonment for a term of up to five years.

The indictments follows similar charges against chocolate sellers in Germany, including Nestle and Mars, that resulted in multimillion dollar fines last January. Canadian officials said Hershey Canada, an alleged co-conspirator, cooperated with the anti-trust investigation.

A fifth unnamed company that claimed to be part of the cartel revealed the scheme as part of program offering immunity to the first party to disclose an offense not yet detected or to provide evidence leading to charges, Pierre Yves Guay, a spokesman for the Competition Bureau,said. The alleged price-fixing involved chocolate bars sold across Canada from 2002 to 2008, he said, including Kit Kat, Coffee Crisp, Aero, Twix, Snickers, Bounty and M&Ms.