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Oreo-maker Mondelez fined $366 million for rigging European markets | CNN Business

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Mondelez, the maker of Oreo and Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate, has been fined €337.5 million ($366 million) for hindering the trade of chocolate, cookies and coffee between European Union countries in order to keep prices high.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition chief, said in a statement Thursday that Mondelez had illegally limited cross-border sales within the EU to maintain higher prices for its products.

“This case is about the price of groceries. It’s a key concern to European citizens and even more obviously in times of very high inflation, where many are in a cost-of-living crisis,” she added during a press conference.

The European Commission, which started looking into the case in 2019, found that Mondelez International (MDLZ) had deliberately restricted cross-border trade and abused “its dominant position” in some national markets for the sale of chocolate bars. It launched a formal investigation in 2021.

Among other things, the company had ceased supplying chocolate bars in the Netherlands to prevent them from being imported into Belgium, where Mondelez was selling the same products at higher prices, the EU’s executive arm said in the statement.

“The commission concluded that Mondelez’s illegal practices prevented retailers from being able to freely source products in (EU) member states with lower prices,” it added.

A spokesperson for Mondelez International said the penalty related to “isolated incidents, most of which ceased or were remedied well in advance of the commission’s investigation.”

“This historical matter is not representative of who we are and the strong culture of compliance for which we strive … This is why we will continue to place emphasis on our overall compliance culture and have strengthened our annual mandatory compliance program to reflect learnings,” the spokesperson added.

Mondelez made an accrual for the fine last year and no further measures will be necessary to finance it.

According to the EU, the company’s illegal practices date as far back as 2006 and include refusing to supply a wholesaler in Germany in order to prevent the resale of chocolate bars in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria and Romania where prices were higher. In another case, Mondelez required a customer to charge higher prices for exports compared with domestic sales.

This story has been updated with additional information. Mark Thompson contributed reporting.

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