French anti-trust authority to probe supermarket purchasing alliances

France’s antitrust authority said on Monday it will investigate whether several purchasing alliances recently sealed by French and European supermarket retailers threatened competition rules.

The probes will assess “the competitive impact of these purchasing alliances on the markets concerned for suppliers and for consumers,” said the anti-trust body in a statement - Reuters

The probes cover purchasing alliances between France’s Auchan, Casino, Germany’s Metro and France’s Schiever on the one hand, and one between Carrefour and Systeme U.

The probe on that last alliance was also widened to include the tie-up between Carrefour and Tesco.

The probes will assess “the competitive impact of these purchasing alliances on the markets concerned for suppliers and for consumers,” said the anti-trust body in a statement.

Retailers are facing intense price competition in their home markets as well as competition from online players such as Amazon, and many French supermarket retailers have been forming alliances to cut costs and protect margins.

Since these alliances are not limited to French retailers and involve the purchase of national brands as well as private labels, they potentially cover “a significant share of consumer goods” sold by retailers, said the anti-trust body.

The anti-trust body said it would also speak with those supplying goods to supermarkets to hear concerns they may have.

The probe, which could last several months, will look at issues previously identified in an April 2015 published paper it gave on joint purchasing retail alliances, such as “risk of exchange of information between competing retailers” and “symmetry of purchasing conditions” offered by retailers.

Depending on the outcome of the probes, the French anti-trust authority can ask the retailers to change some of the terms of their agreements.

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