Pingo Doce announced today that it will challenge the Competition Authority’s (AdC) fine of €35.7 million in the courts, deeming it an “unfair and undeserved decision”.
“Pingo Doce asserts that it has received another decision from the Competition Authority to impose a fine, within the framework of the previous decisions. This decision is also unfair and unworthy and, therefore, like previous decisions, will be appealed to the courts in order to restore the truth of the facts”, says the supermarket chain , in a note sent to Lusa.
The group also asserts that nothing “will stop it (…) from continuing to offer the Portuguese the biggest discounts, the best prices and promotion opportunities, as it has always done”.
AdC has fined supermarkets Auchan, E. Leclerc, Modelo Continente, Pingo Doce and joint supplier Unilever a fine of more than 130 million euros for a consumer price-fixing scheme.
In a statement issued today, AdC announced that it has sanctioned four supermarket chains – Auchan, E. Leclerc, Modelo Continente (Sonae Group) and Pingo Doce (Jerónimo Martins Group) – as well as joint supplier of food products, Home Care and Unilever Personal Care, Which included participation in a Consumer Sales Pricing (PVP) scheme for that supplier’s products.
“The investigation led to the conclusion that through contacts created through the common supplier, without the need to communicate directly with each other, the participating distribution companies ensure that the retail prices of their supermarkets are aligned, in a conspiracy equivalent to a known cartel in law terminology. Competition as ‘hub and spoke'”, details of AdC, in note.
The decision culminates in a total fine of 132 million euros.
Auchan was fined 16.19 million euros, Modelo Continente was fined 50.8 million euros, and Pingo Doce was fined 35.7 million euros. Unilever will have to pay 26.6 million euros and E-Leclair 2.9 million euros.
According to AdC, this practice “eliminates competition, denying consumers a better price choice, but ensures better levels of profitability for the entire distribution chain, including supplier and supermarket chains.”
The regulator states that in November 2021 it adopted “a memorandum of unlawfulness (indictment) in this case, having given all companies the opportunity to exercise their rights of hearing and defence, which were duly considered in the final decision.”
“In the current case, AdC determined that this practice lasted nearly ten years – between 2007 and 2017 – and targeted several products from the supplier in the food, home and personal care areas, such as detergents, deodorants, ice cream, sauces, and tea,” he points out.
It also shows that since the search and seizure measures launched in 2017 at companies in the large distribution sector, six supermarket chains, as well as seven joint suppliers, have already been sanctioned for the anti-competitive practice of “hub and talk”.
The Council notes that this is the seventh punitive decision in the investigations conducted with a large distribution, after the search and forfeiture actions in 2017, which have already resulted in fines totaling more than 645 million euros.