France sniffing out product price-fixing

Marketplace Staff Feb 27, 2008


Lisa Napoli: The euro hit a record high today — $1.51. German automaker BMW today blamed the rising euro on its ability to sell cars — and then announced it was slashing 5,600 jobs.

Some have blamed the rising value of the Euro on the fact that in France, prices of everyday household items are going through the roof. From Marseille, Rene Gutel reports there’s another culprit.

Rene Gutel: It’s called price-fixing. This morning, the newspaper Le Figaro reports that nine makers of consumer products are suspected of colluding to keep prices high.

Both European and U.S. companies are under scrutiny, including Procter and Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, SC Johnson, Sara Lee, and Unilever. This scandal includes the most common product labels, including the kinds of household cleaning products you might find under any French sink.

Le Figaro says France’s Competition Council opened an investigation into the matter three years ago. If the companies are found guilty, they could face billions of euros in fines — up to 10 percent of their annual revenue. How do you say “ouch” in French?

In Marseille, I’m Rene Gutel for Marketplace.

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