The Dutch consumer watchdog ACM and the French Competition Authority have imposed a fine totaling €58.3 million on seven food companies for an applesauce cartel which lasted from October 2010 to January 2014.

The companies fined include Materne, Andros, Conserves France, Délis / Vergers de Châteaubourg, Charles Faraud / Charles & Alice, and Valade; an eighth company – the Dutch Coroos company – denounced the cartel and assisted with the infringement, leading to “a total exemption from penalty.”

According to the French consumer authority, the companies made “secret agreements about the price, and shared market volumes and customers among themselves. In addition, they jointly made a story for their buyers why their prices had to rise.” The cartel meetings took place not in the offices of the companies “but in different hotels and restaurants in France. The participants had separate cell phones for conducting their secret mutual consultations.”

The French authority says, “The sanctioned companies represented, throughout the infringement period, almost the entire market for compotes sold under private label (90%) and in out-of-home catering (100%).”