Caribbean yogurt maker Societe Nouvelle des Yaourts de Littee (SNYL) has been slapped with a €1.67m (US$2.5m) fine for falsely questioning the safety and quality of a rival brand in French territories Martinique and Guadeloupe.
Autorité de la Concurrence (NCA), the French competition authority, last week ruled that SNYL, which controls an approximate 65% yogurt market share with its licensed Yolpait Caresse brand, had abused its dominant position by disseminating misleading information about rival Laiterie de Saint-Malo in Guadeloupe and Martinique.
The €1.67m fine issued by NCA "took into account the duration of the infringement, the severity of the practice, and the extent of the damage caused to the economy."
SNYL, according to NCA, commissioned bacteriological tests on Laiterie de Saint-Malo brand yogurt.
The testing methods were, however, designed for white cheeses, which "resulted in the conclusion that the products were not in compliance with regulations."
It also singled out Laiterie de Saint-Malo for its use of dual use-by dates - despite the fact the practice was employed by SNYL's other rival yogurt manufacturers on the islands, said NCA decision.
This "misleading and disparaging" information was then, the NCA said, disseminated to yogurt market stakeholders, including trade union representatives and distributors.
"Between December 2007 and December 2009, SNYL broadcast information discrediting the sanitary quality of Malo products using the questionable results of bacteriological tests and questioning the irregular consumption deadlines affixed to its products," said a translated NCA statement.
This led a number of retailers in Martinique and Guadeloupe, including some Géant, Casino, and Carrefour stores, to pull Malo products from shelves for an extended period.
"This behavior had the effect of limiting product sales of Laiterie de Saint-Malo in Martinique and Guadeloupe - an abuse of dominant position prohibited by Article L 420-2 of the Commercial Code," said the NCA decision.