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German coffee makers fined for massive price-fixing scheme

DPA/The Local · 22 Dec 2009, 10:33

Published: 22 Dec 2009 10:33 GMT+01:00

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The Federal Cartel Office, or Bundeskartellamt, uncovered multiple instances of "price architecture" going back to the beginning of 2000. The three coffee giants secretly colluded on price hikes, dramatically pushing up the price of filter coffee, espresso, coffee pads and beans.

The fines were imposed on the firms along with six employees involved in the fixing.

Melitta has refused to accept the fine and is in talks with the anti-trust authorities while also preparing an appeal, according to company spokeswoman Annette Kahre.

The firm regrets the incidents and is “taking measures so that something like this didn’t happen again,” Kahre said.

Dallmayr blasted the fines as “totally excessive,” while Tchibo refused to comment.

According to the watchdog, the firms had run a “discussion group” of executives and sales managers over many years, at which they arranged the “timing, length and amount of price rises along with how they would be announced and applied.”

This led to five price-rise agreements between 2003 and 2008, which with one exception – in March and April 2008 – were put into effect in the marketplace.

These were passed on to retailers and eventually to consumers, the Cartel Office office said. In one case, from the end of 2004 to April 2005, this led to a price rise of more than €1 for a 500-gramme packet of roasted coffee.

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“The fines are not yet enforced,” the Cartel Office said in a statement.

The firms and their relevant managers could still appeal.

Dallmayr said from its headquarters in Munich: “As everyone can see ... coffee is better value in Germany than anywhere else in Europe.”

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:57 December 22, 2009 by Jollyjack
I'm a tea drinker - I hardly touch coffee.
12:09 December 22, 2009 by Fi5ty5ive
Woahhh, German companies partake in price fixing! Never! Shock horror!

Pretty much every single consumer product and service in good old DLand is uncompetitively priced. There is absolutely no pricing competition between companies and shops.

That's possibly why it still works out a lot cheaper to buy most things in the UK and courier it over.

As for "coffee is better value in Germany than anywhere else in Europe", that's laughable!
13:52 December 22, 2009 by Bushdiver
This probably isn't the only instance of price fixing. Since the introduction of the not very popular Euro prices on everything doubled. Maybe they should dig lots deeper and I'm sure they'll find lots of irregularities.
22:35 December 22, 2009 by kid_a
Next the telecom companies please..
00:24 December 24, 2009 by mobiusro
Corporations and the capitalist world fixing prices? NEVER! What a shock! They always have the consumer's interest in mind.
07:40 December 24, 2009 by yrrah
It is simply wrong for a business to "take advantage" of its customers in this way...in these hard times to exhibit such greed is reprehensible ... the fines are inadequate and the "normal customer" will see no benefit from it. Whatever happen to German rectitude? Laughing all the way to the bank, I suppose....Shame !
19:01 December 24, 2009 by Alan20012000
Is there any product/service which is Not over priced in Germany? There is absolutely no competition in retail business in here. I always bring my tee and coffee and so many other stuff from the UK in including bed linens.
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