Chocolate giants including Nestle and Mars Inc have moved to settle a class action lawsuit accusing them of price fixing and price maintenance in Canada.

According to a statement from lawyers representing the plaintiffs, Nestle, Mars, then Kraft Foods subsidiary Cadbury Adams Canada and wholesale distributor ITWAL have agreed to resolve the civil action being brought against them. The firms will pay a total of C$23.2m (US$14.14m) to settle allegations they colluded to fix the price of chocolate in Canada between 2001 and 2007.

“The defendants deny the allegations and have settled to avoid the expense, inconvenience and distraction of further protracted litigation,” the statement revealed yesterday (16 September).

The Canadian government is still pursuing an ongoing criminal case, just-food understands. 

Earlier this year, Hershey Canada was fined C$4m after admitting it fixed the price of chocolate products in the country as part of the Canadian government’s criminal investigation. In 2012, the company also paid C$5.3m to settle the civil case. 

At the time, Canada’s Competition Bureau said Hershey had admitted it “conspired, agreed or arranged to fix the price of chocolate confectionery products in Canada”.

Nestle, Mars and ITWAL still face criminal charges, a source close to the situation told just-food. Three individuals – Robert Leonidas, former president of Nestle Canada; Sandra Martinez, former president of Confectionery for Nestle Canada; and David Glenn Stevens, president and CEO of ITWAL – have also been charged.

It is understood that Cadbury is exempt from prosecution under the rules of Canada’s immunity programme, which protect a company that alerts the Bureau to a competition breach.