Supermarkets faulted on pricing

Seven supermarket chains, including some of Greece’s largest, were found guilty yesterday by the Competition Commission of having broken the country’s laws on competition by colluding to set a floor on shelf prices. The commission, which operates under the auspices of the Development Ministry, also found the Association of Greek Supermarkets (SESME) guilty of obstructing competition. While announcing the decision, which was taken by a majority of commission members, the commission said it had not yet decided on the size of the fines to be imposed on SESME and its seven members – Atlantic, Veropoulos, Sklavenitis, Metro, AB Vassilopoulos, Diamantis Massoutis and Trofino. SESME had said that it would appeal any ruling against it at an Athens appeals court, while the association’s board had announced its intention to resign in the event of such a decision. The commission ruling concerned the way in which discounts offered by wholesalers to supermarkets were carried onto retail prices in the autumn of 2001, as well as a meeting between representatives of the seven chains and wholesalers at a hotel on the outskirts of Athens. The commission noted that SESME had shown intent to set an arbitrary ceiling on wholesale discounts that could be reflected in retail prices. This, according to the ruling, obstructed competition by restricting supermarkets’ freedom to sell their customers goods at a lower price. The ruling added that the hotel meeting had intended to «create conditions of competition in the supermarket sector that deviated materially from the terms of free competition.»

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