Roche in the dock - again

Roche has been hit with a second massive fine for price fixing Keystone Archive

The Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche has been fined €64 million (SFr94 million) by the European Commission for its role in a price fixing cartel.

This content was published on December 5, 2001 minutes

The Commission said Roche participated in a "price-fixing and market-sharing cartel in citric acid", an additive used in soft drinks and food.

"As with the vitamins case, the behaviour of Roche and others shows a disregard for their customers and, ultimately, the consumers who paid more for the products concerned," said Competition Commissioner Mario Monti.

The announcement comes a fortnight after the Commission slapped a €462 million (SFr673 million) fine on the Basel-based group for its involvement in a vitamin price fixing cartel.

Roche was singled out by the Commission as the "prime mover and main beneficiary" of the ring.

Roche responded by announcing that more than 8,000 managers worldwide had since attended a special corporate training programme, entitled "Behaviour in Business".

The company said the move was designed to "reinforce its commitment to conducting business in full compliance with all local and international laws".

Past practices

Stephan Garelli, a competitiveness expert at the Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, said he believed Roche was paying the price for past business practices.

Garelli told swissinfo that in the past, anti-trust law had not been as powerful in Switzerland as elsewhere, while the situation regarding cartels in Switzerland had historically been "quite ambiguous".

"It has led for many years to a situation where a large number of companies in Switzerland had, as a common practice, a number of agreements on price, on distribution channels, etc," said Garelli.

"It was not illegal; it was part of the game. Then the law changed and I think what we are seeing now is the inheritance of past practices. We have to update our business practices to the new European environment and indeed the American one."

by Adam Beaumont and Scott Capper

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