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The crackdown on fraud has inflicted 19.4 million euros in fines in 2018

The DGCCRF has established that, in the case of Nutella sold with 70% discount, Intermarché had resale at a loss.

By Cécile Prudhomme Posted today at 11:46, updated at 11:58

Time to Reading 3 min.

An advertisement announces promotions in the Intermarché de bailleul (North), February 1, 2018, a few days after the sale of Nutella to -70% by the sign.
An advertisement announces promotions in the Intermarché de bailleul (North), February 1, 2018, a few days after the sale of Nutella to -70% by the sign. PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

Organic food, traceability, sales on the Internet: the investigations of the repression of frauds followed, in 2018, the big societal phenomena of consumption, as shows its annual report presented Monday, March 25th. The Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) monitored 111,600 institutions and 12,600 websites, resulting in 5,099 administrative minutes and 2,950 fines, for a total of 19.4 million euros.

The economic police paid particular attention to the large retail companies. The case of Nutella promotions sold with a 70% reduction at Intermarché, which had made a big noise in early 2018, led the DGCCRF to carry out investigations. They "Have shown that Intermarché failed to comply with the provisions in force prohibiting resale at a loss", indicates the central administration. At the end of June 2018, the distributor acknowledged the facts and accepted the payment of a criminal transaction of 375,000 euros.

Read also "Super-promos": Intermarché accused of resale at a loss, justice seized

Organic or vegan products have mobilized the work of the investigators

In 2018, the DGCCRF also assigned the E. Leclerc Group central purchasing unit. Indeed, a survey conducted between 2015 and 2017 showed that it imposed each year on certain suppliers of products of national brands, "Without any commercial counterpart", that they make a discount, usually 10%, on all the products they "Also referred the previous year to a competing hard discount sign".

Major food consumption trends, such as organic and vegan products, also mobilized the work of the investigators. "Since the beginning of 2018, controls have been carried out on the importation of organic products", says the institution. Each imported lot must be accompanied by a certificate of conformity. Of 7 311 batches examined, corresponding to 124 872 tonnes of products, 109 biological certificates were declared non-responsive. Among them, "13 imported batches were downgraded to conventional (that is, the products could be sold without the mention" organic farming "), most often because of the presence of pesticide residues", says the DGCCRF.

The DGCCRF has uncovered illegal practices of francization of food products

The crackdown on fraud also looked at foods labeled "vegan" or "vegetarian" for possible deceptive marketing practices. 23% of the establishments inspected (producers, distributors, restaurants) had anomalies, mainly on the use of sales denominations traditionally reserved for products of animal origin (veggie spaghetti carbonara, the Merguez vegan, the bluefin tuna and the Norway lobsters) .

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The DGCCRF has mainly uncovered illegal practices of francization of food products, especially on kiwi and honey. With more than 40 interventions with wholesalers, distributors and packers, the crackdown on fraud has discovered an Italian supplier suspected of marketing Italian kiwis accompanied by falsified French certificates, and an Italian exporter, who has been verbalized by the DGCCRF for deception. Five minutes of deceit on the origin were drawn against five companies.

In the honey sector, the investigators have caught in the act of Frenchization of honey barrels a logistician, commissioned by a company in the South of France to "make up" honey barrels from Spain by replacing the labels with others indicating an origin France. "These barrels were then delivered to wholesalers and beekeepers. The investigation also showed that beekeepers, who have the possibility to resell the honey to other producers provided that the information is unambiguous about the pots, were deceived about the floral species of honeys announced "explains the DGCCRF.

In total, more than 140 000 kg of French honey were placed on the market between 2015 and 2018 by this company, for damages amounting to several million euros. Contentious proceedings for deception and deceptive commercial practice have been referred to the courts.

As Internet purchases have become more widespread, the DGCCRF has also been examining the security of products sold on platforms called market places. 65% of the products tested were found to be non-compliant and 38% were dangerous. Heavy metals in jewelry, substances banned in cosmetics, nitrosamine – a carcinogen – in toys … A warning to consumers.

Cécile Prudhomme

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