US packaged foods juggernaut under EU antitrust probe

Mondelez International logo at the building of Mondelez International in Bremen, northern Germany. [EPA/FOCKE STRANGMANN]

US consumer goods group Mondelez International is being investigated for suspected anti-competitive practices covering EU several member states, a European Commission spokesperson confirmed to EURACTIV.

The spokesperson said that how long the inquiries will last depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, and to the extent to which the companies concerned co-operate with the Commission and exercise the rights of defence.

There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anti-competitive conduct, the Commission spokesperson added.

In its annual report to the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Illinois-based company announced on Friday (7 February) it was being investigated by the Commission over allegations of having breached EU competition law.

The EU executive has concerns that the maker of Oreo, Milka and Toblerone may have restricted cross border sales of its products in the EU’s Single Market.

This may constitute a breach of EU antitrust rules, which prohibit restrictive business practices and abuse of dominant position, respectively in Article 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Contacted by EURACTIV, a Mondelēz spokesperson said that in November 2019, the EU executive informed Mondelēz International it had initiated an investigation into alleged infringement of European Union competition law.

“We are co-operating with the investigation,” the company’s spokesperson said, stressing that the investigation does not automatically mean that the European Commission has concluded there has been any infringement.

On a similar note, the Commission spokesperson also specified that conducting an investigation does not imply that the companies concerned are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself.

In 2014, the European Commission opened an investigation to assess the compliance with the EU Merger Regulation of a proposed joint venture between the Dutch coffee manufacturers Douwe Egberts Master Blenders (DEMB) and Mondelez.

After five months of investigation, the Commission gave the go-ahead to the merger on condition that the group divest two coffee brands and license another one, in order to avoid price increases in roast and ground coffee products in France, Denmark and Latvia, as well as in filter pads in Austria and France.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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