European Commission fines Oreo maker €337.5 million for blocking cross-border sales

European Commission fines Oreo maker €337.5 million for blocking cross-border sales

The European Commission has imposed a fine of €337.5 million on US food company Mondelez, the owner of Oreo cookies and other snack brands, for anti-competitive practices.

The company is accused of obstructing sales of its products between EU member states, the bloc's executive arm said on Thursday.

Mondelez owns the Cadbury and Toblerone chocolate brands as well as Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookies, Triscuit crackers and Perfect Snacks nutrition bars.

The Commission said Mondelez tried to avoid cross-border trade because that could lead to lower prices, harming consumers who end up paying more for chocolate, biscuits and coffee.

“Such illegal practices allowed Mondelez to continue charging more for its own products, to the ultimate detriment of consumers in the EU,” it said.

The Chicago-based company breached EU competition rules “by engaging in anticompetitive agreements or concerted practices aimed at restricting cross-border trade of various chocolate, biscuit and coffee products,” the Commission said. “And by abusing its dominant position in certain national markets for the sale of chocolate tablets.”

Protecting free movement of goods

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager commented that the case was of particular importance due to high European inflation and the generally high price of groceries.

“It is also about the heart of the European project: the free movement of goods in the single market,” Vestager added.

According to the EU's executive branch, the company engaged in 22 anticompetitive agreements or concerted practices.

One agreement included a provision ordering Mondelez’ customers to apply higher prices for exports compared to domestic sales.

The Commission added that Mondelez also prevented ten exclusive distributors based in the 27-nation bloc from answering sale requests from customers in other EU countries without prior authorisation from the company.