Two giants of fmcg manufacturing have been fined hundreds of millions of euros for anti-competitive activities across a host of European countries.

Unilever and Procter & Gamble were fined for their part in a three-year cartel that fixed the price of washing powder in eight European Union nations.

Under the terms of the settlement, Surf maker Unilever will pay out €104m and P&G, which makes Ariel, will pay €211.2m.

The markets affected were Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

The companies were reported to the Commission by German manufacturer Henkel. Both had their fines reduced by 10% for admitting to their part in the cartel.

The settlement comes just a month after Unilever was fined by German regulators for sharing commercially sensitive information with rivals including Kraft Foods and Dr Oetker.

“Unilever believes it is in the best interests of the company to have reached this settlement,” the company said in a statement today.

“Unilever has used the findings from this investigation to strengthen further its internal compliance programme. All key managers in Europe have been retrained on the European competition rules and are well placed to participate fully in industry-wide environmental initiatives.”

EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said: “By acknowledging their participation in the cartel, the companies enabled the Commission to swiftly conclude its investigation.”

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Unilever, Kraft and Dr Oetker fined millions by cartel watchdog (17 March 2011)