By  on February 22, 2008

BERLIN — Leading cosmetics and consumer goods manufacturers in Germany have been fined for price fixing and illegally sharing retail information.

The country's Federal Cartel Office fined Henkel, as well as the German subsidiaries of Sara Lee and Unilever, 37 million euros, or $54.8 million at current exchange. Although the companies can appeal the judgment, Henkel, which is being fined 22 million euros, or $32.6 million, admitted to anticompetitive behavior and agreed to pay the fine.

The companies were found guilty of colluding at the beginning of 2006 to increase the prices of shower gel, toothpaste and dish-washing liquid by 5 percent. They were also found guilty of sharing information on price talks with retailers, with the aim of reducing competitive conditions.

The case came to light when German competition authorities were tipped off by one member of the cartel, Colgate-Palmolive. In return for the tip-off, under a clemency ruling to encourage firms to come clean, Colgate-Palmolive was not fined. The German anticartel office has stated that further investigations into the anticompetitive practices of other companies will also be carried out.

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