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 Nridigital.com

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Why Theresa May can't end speculation of an early general election

Both Conservative and Labour MPs regard a contest next year as the solution to their problems. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as a Conservative leadership candidate was to rule out an early general election. After a tumultuous 2015 contest and the EU referendum, her view was that the country required a period of stability (a view shared by voters). Many newly-elected Tory MPs, fearful of a Brexit-inspired Ukip or Liberal Democrat surge, supported her on this condition.

After entering Downing Street, May reaffirmed her stance. “The Prime Minister could not have been clearer,” a senior source told me. “There won’t be an early election.” Maintaining this pledge is an important part of May’s straight-talking image.

But though No.10 has wisely avoided publicly contemplating an election (unlike Gordon Brown), the question refuses to die. The Conservatives have a majority of just 12 - the smallest of any single-party government since 1974 - and, as David Cameron found, legislative defeats almost inevitably follow. May’s vow to lift the ban on new grammar schools looks to many like an unachievable task. Former education secretary Nicky Morgan and former business minister Anna Soubry are among the Tories leading the charge against the measure (which did not feature in the 2015 Conservative manifesto).  

To this problem, an early election appears to be the solution. The Tories retain a substantial opinion poll lead over Labour, the most divided opposition in recent history. An election victory would give May the mandate for new policies that she presently lacks.

“I don’t believe Theresa May wishes to hold an early election which there is evidence that the country doesn’t want and which, given the current state of the Labour Party, might be seen as opportunistic,” Nigel Lawson told today’s Times“If, however, the government were to find that it couldn’t get its legislation through the House of Commons, then a wholly new situation would arise.”

It is not only Conservatives who are keeping the possibility of an early election alive. Many Labour MPs are pleading for one in the belief that it would end Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. An early contest would also pre-empt the boundary changes planned in 2018, which are forecast to cost the party 23 seats.

For Corbyn, the possibility of an election is a vital means of disciplining MPs. Allies also hope that the failed revolt against his leadership, which Labour members blame for the party’s unpopularity, would allow him to remain leader even if defeated.

Unlike her predecessors, May faces the obstacle of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (under which the next election will be on 7 May 2020). Yet it is not an insurmountable one. The legislation can be suspended with the backing of two-thirds of MPs, or through a vote of no confidence in the government. Alternatively, the act could simply be repealed or amended. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have demanded an early election, would struggle to resist May if she called their bluff.

To many, it simply looks like an offer too good to refuse. Which is why, however hard May swats this fly, it will keep coming back. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.