French fine firms for fixing prices of laundry powder

France's competition authority has slapped fines totalling €361m (£309m) on Colgate Palmolive, Henkel and Procter & Gamble for fixing prices of washing powder in France from 1997 to 2004.

Unilever escaped a fine because it initially reported the wrongdoing in 2008, the regulator said.

Secret talks on pricing took place in hotels and restaurants several times a year, with commercial directors from the groups' French businesses using the code names "Hugues" for Henkel, "Pierre" for P&G, "Laurence" or "Louis" for Unilever, and "Christian" for Colgate, the regulator said.

The fines come just weeks after Reckitt Benckiser was fined in Germany for fixing prices on dishwashing and laundry products in a separate case in which Henkel acted as whistleblower.

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