French agency fines 13 consumer-goods makers more than $1.2 billion for price collusion

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France's antitrust authority has slapped penalties totaling some 950 million euros ($1.2 billion) against 13 consumer-goods makers for illegally colluding on prices for hygiene and cleaning products including shampoos, toothpaste and detergents.

The authority says the penalties are among its largest, and the wrongdoing involved, among others, U.S.-based Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, and Sara Lee, Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever and Britain's Reckitt Benckiser.

In a statement Thursday, the agency said the collusion dated back to 2003-2006 and involved regular meetings to set prices and coordinate price hikes — at times secretly at restaurants or via correspondence to private homes. It said distributors, consumers and the overall economy were negatively affected.

Some companies received partial leniency. Seven did not challenge the findings and made commitments to comply with the law in future.