Germany fines consumer goods firms in information-sharing probe

FRANKFURT, March 18 Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:12pm EDT

FRANKFURT, March 18 (Reuters) - Germany's cartel office said it would fine a number of consumer goods companies 39 million euros ($51 million), including L'Oreal and Procter & Gamble in Germany, for taking part in anti-competitive sharing of information.

The cartel office said the companies had shared information between 2004 and 2006 during working groups on personal care, laundry and cleaning products.

The information exchanged included upcoming price increases, discounts demanded by retailers and negotiations with retailers.

The probe was triggered by Colgate-Palmolive, which escaped fines for its role as whistleblower.

The watchdog had already fined nine companies a total of 24 million euros as part of the same investigation in 2008 and 2011.

The companies also fined on Monday were Beiersdorf , the German units of Gillette - also part of P&G - and GlaxoSmithKline, as well as Erdal-Rex GmbH.

The Markenverband association of German brands, which ran the regular working groups, was also fined for supporting the exchange of information.

L'Oreal and P&G both said they would appeal the decision.

"L'Oreal Germany did not take part in any anti-competitive exchange of information," the company said in a statement.

A P&G spokeswoman said one of the company's key principles was to work within the letter of the law wherever it operated.

GlaxoSmithKline in Germany and Erdal-Rex, which makes cleaning products under the Frosch brand, were not immediately available for comment. The Markenverband association said it would review the decision before deciding whether to appeal.

Beiersdorf has already agreed a settlement with the authorities and so cannot appeal.

Those companies previously fined as part of the same investigation include Henkel and Reckitt Benckiser .