EU fines Oreo maker Mondelēz €337.5m for restricting cross-border trade

Mondelēz International, the US maker of Oreo cookies and Toblerone chocolate, has been fined €337.5 million by European Union antitrust regulators for impeding cross-border trade of its chocolate, biscuit and coffee products between EU countries.

The European Commission sanction continues its crackdown against companies imposing territorial supply constraints that restrict the free movement of goods within the single market. It found Mondelēz had engaged in anticompetitive deals and abused its dominant market position, breaching EU competition laws.

"We are determined to uphold fundamental freedoms in the EU and ensure citizens have access to the biggest variety at the lowest prices the market can offer," EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager stated at a press conference. The company's fine was reduced by 15 percent after acknowledging the wrongdoing.

However, Mondelēz claimed the case concerned "historical, isolated incidents" that were largely remedied before the investigation began. "This historical matter is not representative of who we are and the strong culture of compliance for which we strive," a spokesperson said.

Specifically, the Commission found Mondelēz limited which territories or customers seven wholesale traders could resell its products to between 2012-2019, with one deal requiring higher export prices.

It also prevented ten exclusive distributors across the EU from replying to sales requests from other member states without prior approval between 2006-2020.

Additionally, from 2015-2019, Mondelēz refused supply to a German broker to stop chocolate tablets being resold in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria and Romania where prices were higher. It also halted supply in the Netherlands to prevent imports into Belgium for the same reason.

The Commission concluded Mondelēz partitioned the EU market and obstructed retailers from sourcing products where prices were lower, allowing it to maintain inflated prices in certain countries at consumers' expense.

While Mondelēz was fined €337.5m, those affected may also bring damages claims before national courts. The penalty will be paid into the EU budget, reducing national contributions.

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