08 January 2016

French Competition Authority fines parcel couriers €672.3 million for engaging in anti-competitive practices

On 15 December 2015, the French Competition Authority (the FCA) fined twenty parcel delivery companies and their trade union TLF a total of €672.3 million for repeatedly colluding through the exchange of sensitive information and alignment of their pricing policies between 2004 and 2010. This infringement decision was taken after a leniency application was made by the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn in 2008, followed by dawn raids on the parcel delivery companies in September 2010. After these dawn raids took place, Alloin Transport, one of the companies that participated in the information exchanges, also applied for leniency.

The FCA found that the delivery companies organised secret roundtable discussions during the TLF’s annual meetings to exchange sensitive information regarding the price increases that they intended to charge to their clients. After these discussions, circular letters were sent to the companies’ clients, demonstrating that the prices announced by the parcel delivery companies were actually applied, providing them with precise insight into the business strategies of their competitors. The FCA also discovered that a series of bilateral and multilateral collusive exchanges of information had taken place between certain specific members of the trade union.

In addition, 15 of these parcel couriers and the TLF were also fined for agreeing to impose increased diesel prices to clients using a common method, between 2004 and 2006, which the clients would have been unable to challenge.

The FCA held that the TLF actively contributed to the secretive nature of these concerted practices and ensured that they were implemented by threatening to exclude the more reluctant members from the trade union.

In calculating the fine, the FCA took into account the financial difficulties experienced by several of the companies and therefore reduced the companies’ respective fines by up to 99.9%. The FCA also took into consideration the nature of the regulatory environment, which it viewed as confusing.

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