France fines L'Oreal, Unilever and others $1.5 billion for price collusion

An employee gives bags to visitors at the stand of French cosmetics giant L'Oreal during the Actionaria shareholders fair in Paris on Nov 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
An employee gives bags to visitors at the stand of French cosmetics giant L'Oreal during the Actionaria shareholders fair in Paris on Nov 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - France's competition authority on Thursday slapped 13 top manufacturers of cosmetics and cleaning products with 950 million euros (S$1.54 billion) in fines for price collusion between 2003 and 2006.

A first fine of 345.2 million euros for collusion on the prices of household cleaning products was imposed on Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Unilever and Procter & Gamble.

These same companies, along with others such as French cosmetics giant L'Oreal and US-based Gillette, received a second fine of 605.9 million euros for fixing the prices of personal hygiene products.

The companies were found guilty of coordinating "their trade policies with retailers and in particular working together on price increases," the authority said.

The majority of the companies involved do not contest the accusations against them. Two of them, SC Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive, received full or partial exoneration for exposing the collusion.

L'Oreal, which received the stiffest total fine of 189 million euros due to its majority stake in the cosmetics sector at the time, said it would appeal.

Likewise, Anglo-Dutch company Unilever, which had the second largest fine of 173 million euros, said it would challenge the decision, calling the fine "completely disproportionate and unjustified."