Supermarkets stung by fines

Seven of the country’s largest supermarket chains and their union were slapped with fines totaling more than 18 million euros yesterday after a competition regulator found them guilty of unlawfully colluding to set a floor on shelf prices. The Competition Commission said in a statement that it will fine the Association of Greek Supermarkets (SESME) 15 million euros and its seven members individually, by amounts ranging from 6,000 euros to more than 700,000 euros. The decision is considered groundbreaking, not only because of the stiff penalties but also due to the fact that authorities have fined a professional association. The penalties imposed were actually some 50-60 percent higher than those recommended by the commission’s secretariat. SESME has said that it will appeal any fines, but it was not available for comment yesterday. The decision made by the Competition Commission, which operates under the auspices of the Development Ministry, was taken by majority. In the event of the collusion being repeated, the commission added, a fine of 30 million euros will be imposed on SESME and each supermarket will be fined 3 million euros. The original decision that the retailers were breaching competition rules was taken in February, as authorities have been targeting illegal practices in the food industry, including the dairy sector, in a bid to combat the rising cost of living. The commission ruling focused on the way in which discounts offered by wholesalers to supermarkets were carried over into retail prices in the autumn of 2001, as well as on a meeting between representatives of the seven chains and wholesalers. On an individual basis, the seven supermarkets were fined as follows: Atlantic 430,000 euros, Veropoulos 500,713 euros, Diamantis Massoutis 347,784 euros, Metro 338,201 euros, Sklavenitis 611,844 euros, Trofino 6,000 euros and AB Vassilopoulos 721,240 euros.

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