Five questions answered on Nestle and Mars price fixing charge

Hershey also involved.

Canadian authorities have charged chocolate giants Nestle and Mars, along with several independent wholesale distributors, over alleged chocolate price fixing. We answer five questions on the charges.

Why have the Canadian authorities charged Nestle and Mars?

The Canadian Competition Bureau, based in Ottawa, say the have uncovered evidence that Nestle and Mars fixed the price of chocolate, which is a criminal offence.

The bureau uncovered the alleged offences through its immunity scheme, whereby the first person to disclose an offence may receive immunity from persecution, providing they cooperate fully.

The bureau charged Nestle Canada, Mars Canada, and the distributors ITWAL.

Are any other chocolate companies involved in the scandal?

Yes, the Canadian division of US confectionary company Hershey is said to have cooperated in the bureau’s five-year long investigation into the alleged price fixing offences. Because of the company’s cooperation they are expected to be treated with leniency.

In a statement Hershey blamed ex-employees for the offences:

"The current Hershey Canada senior management team as well as The Hershey Company and its management had no involvement in this conduct," the statement said.

What has Mars Canada said about the allegations?

In a statement the company said:

"Mars Canada intends to vigorously defend itself against these allegations. It is Mars Canada's policy not to comment on pending litigation and we are therefore unable to make any additional comments in relation to this matter, which is now before the court."

What has the Canadian competition Bureau said about the case?

"We are fully committed to pursuing those who engage in egregious anti-competitive behaviour that harms Canadian consumers," said John Pecman, Interim Commissioner of Competition, speaking to the BBC.

"Price-fixing is a serious criminal offence and today's charges demonstrate the Competition Bureau's resolve to stop cartel activity in Canada," he added.

Have any individuals also been charged as part of the investigation?

Yes. Robert Leonidas, the former chief executive of Nestle Canada; Sandra Martinez, former Nestle Canada president and David Glenn Stevens, president and chief executive ITWAL Limited have all been charged and, if convicted, face up to five years in prison. The companies and executives could each be fined up to £6.5m ($10m).

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Why Theresa May won't exclude students from the net migration target

The Prime Minister believes the public would view the move as "a fix". 

In a letter to David Cameron shortly after the last general election, Philip Hammond demanded that students be excluded from the net migration target. The then foreign secretary, who was backed by George Osborne and Sajid Javid, wrote: "From a foreign policy point of view, Britain's role as a world class destination for international students is a highly significant element of our soft power offer. It's an issue that's consistently raised with me by our foreign counterparts." Universities and businesses have long argued that it is economically harmful to limit student numbers. But David Cameron, supported by Theresa May, refused to relent. 

Appearing before the Treasury select committee yesterday, Hammond reignited the issue. "As we approach the challenge of getting net migration figures down, it is in my view essential that we look at how we do this in a way that protects the vital interests of our economy," he said. He added that "It's not whether politicians think one thing or another, it's what the public believe and I think it would be useful to explore that quesrtion." A YouGov poll published earlier this year found that 57 per cent of the public support excluding students from the "tens of thousands" target.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has also pressured May to do so. But the Prime Minister not only rejected the proposal - she demanded a stricter regime. Rudd later announced in her conference speech that there would be "tougher rules for students on lower quality courses". 

The economic case for reform is that students aid growth. The political case is that it would make the net migration target (which has been missed for six years) easier to meet (long-term immigration for study was 164,000 in the most recent period). But in May's view, excluding students from the target would be regarded by the public as a "fix" and would harm the drive to reduce numbers. If an exemption is made for one group, others will inevitably demand similar treatment. 

Universities complain that their lobbying power has been reduced by the decision to transfer ministerial responsibility from the business department to education. Bill Rammell, the former higher education minister and the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire, said in July: “We shouldn’t assume that Theresa May as prime minister will have the same restrictive view on overseas students that Theresa May the home secretary had”. Some Tory MPs hoped that the net migration target would be abolished altogether in a "Nixon goes to China" moment.

But rather than retreating, May has doubled-down. The Prime Minister regards permanently reduced migration as essential to her vision of a more ordered society. She believes the economic benefits of high immigration are both too negligible and too narrow. 

Her ambition is a forbidding one. Net migration has not been in the "tens of thousands" since 1997: when the EU had just 15 member states and the term "BRICS" had not even been coined. But as prime minister, May is determined to achieve what she could not as home secretary. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.