Two leading British supermarkets – Asda and Sainsbury’s – are being fined millions of euros after admitting helping fix the price of milk, cheese and butter with dairy firms. Others – including Tesco – are denying involvement.
The supermarkets protested that they were trying to help dairy farmers by raising prices, but Sonya Branch of the UK consumer watchdog the Office of Fair Trading said: “For us this is about a clear breach of the competition regime, we believe that sharing of commercially sensitive information on retail prices is a very clear and straightforward breach of the law.”
The OFT said the price-fixing took place in 2002 – 2003 and meant consumers paid around 370 million euros more for dairy products than they should have done.
The supermarkets that have admitted anti-competitive practices said it was a way of assisting dairy farmers who were under financial pressure following the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001.
Some in the dairy industry criticised the Office of Fair Trading for pursuing this matter saying that the supermarkets saved some farmers from going out of business by paying them more for their milk and other products, but the OFT said it had seen no evidence that the extra revenue raised by the price hikes actually went to the farmers.