EU fines fragrance firm 15.9 million euros for ’deleting WhatsApp messages’

EU fines fragrance firm 15.9 million euros for 'deleting WhatsApp messages'

On Monday June 24, the EU handed US giant International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) a 15.9-million-euro (USD 17.1-million) fine for obstructing a major cartel probe after an employee deleted WhatsApp messages.

Brussels antitrust regulators raided several companies across Europe including IFF last year over suspicions the fragrance firms were colluding to fix prices.

The European Commission, the EU’s antitrust regulator, said during those inspections it sought to review the phones of some of IFF’s employees.

“While reviewing, the commission detected that a senior employee had deleted WhatsApp messages exchanged with a competitor containing business-related information,” it said.

The messages were deleted after the employee was informed about the inspection, it added.

IFF later helped the commission to recover the deleted data but Brussels still opened a parallel case against the company for “obstructing” the probe.

In such cases, the commission can slap a fine of up to one percent of a company’s total turnover but it opted for only 0.15 percent after IFF’s “proactive cooperation during and after the inspection”.

The cartel suspicions go beyond the European Union.

European and US antitrust authorities including Swiss officials last year began investigating the biggest companies in the sector including IFF, Swiss firms Firmenich International and Givaudan, and Germany’s Symrise over suspicions of a price cartel.

Fragrances and flavours are used in a long line of products, from fine perfumery and cosmetics to shampoos and detergents and food products, in a multi-billion dollar market.


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