For years, German customers have been paying a bitter price for the sweet stuff, the Federal Cartel Office announced this week. Officials have fined Germany’s three biggest sugar purveyors €280 million, or $385 million, for an ongoing conspiracy to illegally fix prices.
According to The Local, the sugar companies had made arrangements between themselves to drive sugar prices up across Germany. The collusion included the establishment of traditional sales territories, where competitors would not enter and get in the way.
“Quantities of sugar were more likely to be exported abroad than be sold to customers in the competition’s territory,” said Cartel Office president Andreas Mundt.
The collusion allegedly began in the 1990s and was only caught in 2009 when the cartel office intervened. Not only did the arrangements between the companies result in significant price increases, they also resulted in occasional sugar shortages.
Nordzucker has received a reduced fine for cooperating with authorities, while Südzucker was hit with the €195.5 million lion’s share of the fine.
This is actually the second big fine levied for price-fixing in Germany since the start of 2014. In January, some of the country’s most famous breweries were hit with a significant fine for similar price-fixing collusion.