Competition Switzerland - Q2 2010

Author:Mr Silvio Venturi and Pascal Favre
Profession:Tavernier Tschanz
 
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Investigations

The Secretariat of the Federal Competition Commission calls for fines of up to CHF 25.5 million against companies in the perfume and cosmetics sector for alleged cartel activities.

The Secretariat of the Federal Competition Commission ("FCC") opened an investigation against the Association of Manufacturers, Importers and Suppliers of Cosmetic and Perfumery products (ASCOPA) and its individual members on December 1, 2008. The investigation was launched after a whistle blower had transmitted information to the Secretariat. The following companies, among others, are members of ASCOPA: Chanel Genève SA, Clarins SA, Coty (Schweiz) AG, Estée Lauder GmbH, L'Oréal Produits de Luxe SA, Parfums Christian Dior AG and YSL Beauté.

According to its press release, after an 18-month investigation the Secretariat found evidence that the undertakings concerned aligned their prices and froze their market shares after they had exchanged sensitive information (on prices, sales figures and advertising expenses).

Exchange between competitors of individualised information regarding prices or sales figures is to be considered as aiming at restricting competition. The Secretariat characterises these behaviours as anticompetitive agreements on prices and quantities within the meaning of Article 5(3) of the Competition Act. It therefore asks the FCC to establish the violations to the Swiss Cartel Act and to sanction the parties to the unlawful agreements.

The proposed fines are calculated according to each company's turnover and the gravity of the violation. They vary between CHF 17,000 and CHF 25.5 million.

The undertakings concerned have received the Secretariat's proposed decision and have now the right to respond. The FCC will then make its decision on the basis of these responses (subject to further possible investigation steps).

This procedure marks the first investigation of the FCC in connection with exchange of sensitive information that could result in fines.

The FCC opens an investigation against Roger Guenat SA, a Swiss distributor of mountain sports products, for alleged resale price fixing and parallel import bans

On May 19, 2010, the FCC opened an investigation against Roger Guenat SA for an alleged resale price fixing and ban on parallel imports of mountain sport equipment. A dawn raid was conducted in Roger Guenat SA's premises.

According to the FCC, it has received a complaint with elements of proof establishing that Roger Guenat SA has fixed its distributors' resale prices, notably by setting maximum rebates. The FCC has also evidence that parallel imports of mountain sports products into Switzerland have been impeded or prevented.

The FCC's investigation will have to establish whether Roger Guenat SA has really fixed resale prices and/or impeded or prevented parallel imports of mountain sports products.

Cartels

The FCC fines a manufacturer of components for sanitary, heating and cooling installations for anticompetitive agreements on prices.

On May 27, 2010, the FCC imposed a fine of CHF 169,000 to Flamco AG for anticompetitive agreements on prices. These unlawful agreements between two component manufacturers for sanitary, heating and cooling installations concerned the amount and the moment for price increases. The other company involved, Pneumatex AG, benefited from an immunity of fine, as it had been...

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