French Antitrust Watchdog Fines Perfume, Cosmetic Brands

France's antitrust authority said Tuesday it has fined 13 perfume and cosmetic brands and three vendors 46.2 million euros ($55.1 million) for alleged price collusion between 1997 and 2000.

The Competition Council said famous cosmetic brands such as Chanel SA, PPR SA's Yves Saint Laurent and Guerlain had agreed with vendors Marionnaud Parfumeries SA, Nocibe and Sephora that the price of individual products would be fixed across the three chains' stores.

Marionnaud, which was bought last year by Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.'s AS Watson group, received the highest fine, 12.8 million euros ($15.2 million). LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA's chain Sephora was fined 9.4 million euros ($11.2 million) and privately owned retailer Nocibe was fined 6.2 million euros ($7.4 million).

The perfume and cosmetics brands were fined between 4.1 million euros ($4.9 million) — handed to L'Oreal — and 90,000 euros ($107,300).

Under the arrangements, a "price police" was set up by the conspirators to artificially inflate prices, pressure individual vendors and threaten reprisals against those that refused to apply the prices set by the perfume and cosmetic brands, the council said.

"The brands prosecuted claimed that this standardization of prices at a high level was designed to defend the 'luxury image' of their products," the council said in a statement.

The Associated Press contacted seven of the fined companies by telephone, and none immediately provided comment.