It has been reported this week that the French competition authority carried out dawn raids on 22 September on the producers of processed fruit in pouches and cartons. These products are often promoted for children and babies. The authority has not named the companies involved but has indicated that it is investigating potential anti-competitive practices in the sector.
What does this mean for customers of the fruit processors?
The Authority’s investigation is at a very early stage, and it may not proceed to a full enquiry, let alone an adverse finding. It could be several months before it becomes clear what the Authority intends to do. However, if it finds anti-competitive behaviour, companies and individuals who have been affected, for example by having to pay higher prices for products, can claim compensation from the companies found liable. These are known as “follow-on claims”.
It is not necessarily just French buyers who may have been affected, and it is often possible to bring follow-on claims in England in such cases.
Companies who believe they have suffered damage have to prove their loss, but they can rely on any finding by the Authority as proof of the illegal behaviour, so claims are (relatively) easier to bring. Losses, such as over-paying, may well have accumulated over a lengthy period, so it’s worth considering at an early stage whether a claim is likely, so documents can be preserved.