Supermarkets Auchan, E. Leclerc, Modelo Continente, and Pingo Doce, as well as supplier Unilever have been fined over €130 million by the Competition Authority (AdC) for a consumer price fixing scheme.

"The investigation concluded that, through contacts established through [Unilever], without the need to communicate directly with each other, the participating distribution companies ensured the alignment of retail prices in their supermarkets. It is a conspiracy equivalent to a cartel, known in competition law terminology as a 'hub-spoke' model," the AdC detailed in a statement.

Auchan was fined €16.19 million, Modelo Continente €50.8 million, and Pingo Doce €35.7 million. Unilever will pay €26.6 million, and E.Leclerc €2.9 million.

According to the AdC, this practice “eliminates competition, depriving consumers of the chance of better prices, while ensuring better levels of profitability for the entire distribution chain, including both supplier and supermarket chains".

The regulator said it issued an indictment in November of last year, “giving the opportunity to all companies to exercise their right to hearing and defence, which was duly considered in the final decision".

"The PCA has determined that the practice lasted almost ten years - between 2007 and 2017 - and targeted several products of Unilever from the food, home care, and personal care areas, such as detergents, deodorants, ice creams, sauces, and teas”.

The statement also says that, since 2017, the regulator has sanctioned six supermarket chains, as well as seven joint suppliers for anti-competition practices.

The AdC noted that this is the seventh sanctioning decision in the investigations conducted against large retail chains, which have resulted in fines totalling more than €645 million.