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).