The Paris Court of Appeal has reduced the financial penalties handed down to a dozen ham and charcuterie processors over their involvement in a cartel in France.

According to a statement, the court has “partially revised” the national antitrust authority’s initial fines of €93m ($102m).

In the same document, the court said it “confirmed” the presence of cartel-related practices, “as well as the participation in them of most of the companies concerned”.

Despite this judgment, it added: “Several companies are nevertheless exonerated with regard to one of the accused practices. In addition, the participation of other companies in one or other of the accused practices is reduced over time.”

The court added: “The amount of financial penalties imposed is reduced accordingly.” It stressed it also considered “the recent particular financial difficulties of a company” in its decision.

The twelve groups will now be presented with a collective fine of approximately €39m, local news sites Sud Ouest and Le Parisien indicate.

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The French competition authority first launched a probe into the presence of a cartel in the country’s cold cuts market in 2018.

Fourteen companies were initially investigated for instilling price-fixing agreements in France on ham and other meat products between 2010 and 2013.

The Autorité said it believed the companies had been working together on fixing the price for the meat bought from slaughterhouses and the price of goods sold to distributors.

Those affected included poultry processors Fleury Michon, Spanish food producer Campofrío, Swiss retailer Coop, dairy giant Nestlé, agribusiness Groupe Roullier, retailer Les Mousquetaires and the French cooperative Cooperl Arc Atlantique, among others.

Twelve groups ended up facing monetary sanctions when the antitrust body made its final judgment in July 2020.

Fleury Michon, which was given a fine of €14.8m, said it planned to appeal the decision at the time, claiming it had not taken part in price-fixing downstream, nor “participated in an anti-competitive agreement relating to the purchase price of certain raw materials”.

In March 2021, the group was hit with another €100,000 penalty by the competition watchdog “for having obstructed the conduct of the investigation”.

The court has now allegedly reduced the company’s fine to €12.9m, reported Le Parisien.

Brittany-headquartered Cooperl now faces a much lower sanction of €13m, which the court said comes as a result of the “financial difficulties” it has faced, according to the publication.

Cooperl was originally given the largest fine of €35.5m but was granted a reprieve over the payment in 2021.

French retail group Les Mousquetaires is said to have had its fine cut from €31.7m to €5.6m.

The Autorité de la concurrence declined to comment on the judgment of the appeals process.