Seven cartels involving Dutch companies that got fined by Brussels

Tut tut. Companies in the Netherlands have been involved in some rather peculiar cartels and fined lots of money by the oh-so scandal free European Commission in Brussels. Here’s a list, inspired by the NRC.

Canned mushrooms
Its canned button mushrooms may very well be as delicious as Bonduelle says they are but that doesn’t mean it can charge consumers whatever it and the other canned mushroom cartel members deem fit. That was the European Commission’s thinking as well and, in its latest cartel busting exercise it fined Bonduelle and Gelderland-based Prochamp €30m and €2m respectively. Lutèce, based in Limburg, confessed to the Commission of its own accord and escaped a fine.

Mattress filling material
Flexible polyurethane foam is used in mattresses, sofas, car seats and lots of other products. The vigilant European Commission fined four price fixing manufacturers a total of €117. The deals were made in ten European countries, including the Netherlands, between 2005 and 2010.

It’s called the Northsea Shrimp Cartel. Between 2000 and 2009 Dutch shrimp traders Heiploeg and Klaas Puul agreed to fix prices and share sales volumes of the little delicacies in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany. Also involved were Kok Seafood and German trader Stührk. The Commission slammed a €27m fine on Heiploeg which then went bankrupt – and relaunched.



Washing powder
There’s nothing very clean about the washing powder cartel which Dutch multinational Unilever and Proctor & Gamble operated in eight European countries, including the Netherlands. The two companies were presented with a €315m fine. Henkel got off scot-free for blabbing to the Commission. The investigation revealed that the code names used during price-fixing meetings were ‘Pierre’ for Procter & Gamble and ‘Louis’ for Unilever. We can only speculate about the codes the managers used to get in: ‘How clean your laundry is, Pierre. How do you do it?’ ‘Ok, Louis, you can come in.’

Well, sanitary equipment. Toilets. 17 bathroom fittings & fixtures manufacturers got together (in a very small bathroom we would like to think) to fix the price of sanitary equipment in Germany, Austria, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. The pong this produced drifted into the European Commission’s chambers and they were fined a total of €622m.

Thursday is apparently an important day in the world of banana trading. It is the day when the weekly price of bananas are announced by the big importers. In 2002 Chiquita, Dole and Delmonte didn’t play by the rules, however, and had a chat on the Wednesday evening to fix a price deal worth €2.5bn for the Northern European market, including the Netherlands. In 2008 the Commission fined Dole and Delmonte €45.6m and €14.7m respectively. Chiquita blabbed and escaped being fined.

Shell should have been fined €96m but because it told on its fellow-conspirators it didn’t have to pay a penny. Shell, Eni, ExxonMobil and Total would meet in a hotel bar called the ‘Blauer Salon’ for their price fixing chats. Shell, not wanting to go Dutch, slipped out and went to the Commission and left the others with a tab of €676m.  All this is about paraffin by the way, and it’s in lots of products, from the rind of Dutch cheese to car tyres. Oh hang on..


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