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The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether two French groups of retailers, Casino Guichard-Perrachon (known as ‘Casino’) and Les Mousquetaires (known as ‘Intermarché’), have coordinated their conduct in the market, in breach of EU competition rules.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said “Buying alliances between retailers have become a key component of grocery supply chains. They can bring lower prices to consumers for food and personal care brands that they purchase on a daily basis. Such benefits can however disappear quickly if retailers use these alliances to collude on their sales activities. The Commission will therefore investigate if Casino and Intermarché have coordinated their activities in an anticompetitive way.

Casino and Intermarché are two of the largest chains of groceries retail shops active in France. In November 2014, they set up a joint venture for the joint procurement alliance of their branded products, INCA.

The Commission is concerned that Casino and Intermarché went beyond the purpose of their alliance and engaged in an anticompetitive conduct. In particular, the Commission will investigate whether Casino and Intermarché coordinated their activities on the development of their shop networks and their pricing policy towards consumers.

If proven, this coordination may breach EU competition rules on anticompetitive agreements between companies (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

The Commission will now carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority. The opening of a formal investigation does not prejudge its outcome.