French Government Fines Parcel Delivery Companies for Anticompetitive Activity
The French government agency Autorité de la concurrence issued a decision earlier this month in which it fined 20 parcel delivery companies and one trade union for entering into and abiding by anticompetitive agreements.
The fines in total came to $736 million.
The government found two schemes afoot. The principal agreement concerned 20 companies as well as the professional trade union TLF (Transport and Logistics Trade Association) and involved, during the period between 2004 and 2010, repeated collusions between competitors regarding annual price increases.
A smaller-scale agreement involving 15 of the same companies as well as TLF was also fined an amount
concerned defining a common method for passing on the costs of a fuel surcharge.
The information-sharing process which led to the anticompetitive behavior took place mainly during meetings held within the framework of TLF which has also been fined.
Round table discussions were regularly organized upstream and downstream of the price increase campaigns, enabling the companies to harmonize their pricing demands. According to a French government document, the discussions were kept secret with no official minutes being taken.
These discussions were completed, with regard to some companies, by bilateral or multilateral exchanges.
The following companies were involved in the agreement: Alloin, BMVirolle, Chronopost, Exapaq (now known as DPD France), Ciblex, Dachser France, DHL Express France, FedEx Express France, Gefco, Geodis, GLS France, Heppner, Lambert et Valette, XP France, Norbert Dentressangle Distribution, Normatrans, Schenker-Joyau (now known as Schenker France), TNT Express France, Transports Henri Ducros, and Ziegler France.
With regard to TLF, the documents in the case show that the union, “instead of playing its role of vigilance in terms of compliance with competition rules, actively participated in organizing unlawful discussions whilst also protecting their confidentiality.”
When calculating the penalties, the Autorité took into account the duration of the practices, their seriousness and the harm caused to the economy in particular to small and medium enterprises, which due to their insufficient negotiating power, were the first victims of the agreement. The agency also adapted its penalties to the specifics of the case, in particular by reducing, for six companies the amount of the penalties by more than 90 percent by taking into account their current financial difficulties.
The decision also sanctioned 15 of the same companies as well as TLF, for having reached anti-competitive agreements on the principle and the method used—at the bottom of invoices—to pass on the costs of the increase in the price of diesel to their clients.
The cases were brought to the knowledge of the Autorité by the Deutsche Bahn Group, for the conduct of its subsidiary Schenker-Joyau, by Alloin (part of Kuehne+Nagel Group). These companies applied for and were granted leniency.
At the time of the events in questions, the revenues in France of the parcel delivery industry amounted to $9.3 billion.
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