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The Office Imposed a Fine of CZK 72 million on Distributor of Moulinex, Rowenta, Krups and Tefal Products

2024-04-03

The Office for the Protection of Competition (hereinafter referred to as “the Office”) imposed a fine of CZK 72 333 000 on the undertaking Groupe SEB ČR s.r.o. for prohibited agreements on resale price maintenance through which the undertaking restricted customers in setting the prices of goods sold to end consumers.

The decision has already come into force as Groupe SEB ČR s.r.o. confessed to the infringement in the course of the settlement procedure and did not file an appeal against the decision.

Groupe SEB s.r.o. is a Czech subsidiary of the French Groupe SEB, a global manufacturer of small household appliances, kitchen and personal care appliances and kitchenware. Groupe SEB s.r.o. manufactures and distributes Krups, Moulinex, Rowenta, Tefal and WMF products. It sells the goods mentioned above in the Czech Republic mainly on a wholesale level to wholesale and retail customers, who then sell them to end consumers.

The undertaking Groupe SEB infringed the Act on the Protection of Competition and EU competition rules by setting minimum retail prices for small household appliances and kitchenware to customers for sale to end consumers. Compliance with these prices was subsequently controlled, for example, by the comparison website Heureka.cz and by specialised software. Groupe SEB requested sellers whose prices were too low to increase them to the set level, even under the threat of sanctions, which it actually applied. The undertaking was thus able to influence the price level of the product concerned in the relevant markets, despite the fact that it did not have to conclude price agreements with all its customers. The undertaking Groupe SEB was thus proven to have entered into prohibited vertical price agreements with more than two dozen of customers between 19 April 2015 and 7 April 2022, with the aim to distort competition in the relevant markets.

The fine imposed is significant in particular due to the fact that the undertaking Groupe SEB was one of the most important players in the kitchenware market segment in particular, and because it committed the prohibited conduct for almost seven years. On the other hand, the Office considered positively the fact that the undertaking Groupe SEB cooperated actively and above-standard in the course of the investigation, voluntarily terminated the anti-competitive conduct and informed its customers that they were entitled to set their prices. In addition, the party to the administrative proceedings qualified for a reduction of the fine by enhancing and expanding its existing compliance programme and by complying with the conditions of the settlement procedure.

This is the third vertical cartel in the household appliances segment to be detected and punished, and the Office is dealing with other cases in this sector. The undertaking FAST CZ was fined CZK 30 228 000 for such anticompetitive conduct and the undertaking ELECTROLUX, s.r.o. was fined CZK 125 404 000. So far, the Office's findings has demonstrated that a significant number of distributors, importers and manufacturers use prohibited practices that restrict price competition among sellers and thus increase the price level for end consumers. These are therefore not trivial misconducts, but a recurring pattern of behaviour that covers a significant part of the market and has a real negative impact on the overall welfare of Czech consumers.

Press unit of the Office
24/053