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

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.