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What is the milk cartel?

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What is the milk cartel about?

¿En qué consiste el cártel de la leche?
¿En qué consiste el cártel de la leche?

From the year 2000 to at least 2013, a group of companies buying raw milk engaged in anticompetitive or antitrust practices, consisting of the exchange of relevant commercial information, agreeing on prices in order to obtain a cheaper supply, thus preventing farmers from negotiating prices.

On July 19, 2019, the National Commission for Markets and Competition, hereinafter CNMC, sanctioned a group of dairy companies, considering that they formed a milk cartel to alter purchase prices downwards, to the detriment of farmers.

Competence to claim the compensation that corresponds to them in accordance with the resolution issued by the CNMC on July 11, 2019.

According to the aforementioned resolution ( S/0425/12: INDUSTRIAS LACTEAS 2), there was an illegal agreement between some of the main companies to purchase raw cow’s milk, constituting a buyers’ cartel between 2000 and 2013, which caused the consequent impact on the price of milk and, in this way, obtain more benefits to the detriment of farmers.

In accordance with the CNMC decision S/ 2/0425/12, the companies that participated in the anti-competitive behaviors are the following:

Calidad Pascual, Corporación Alimentaria Peñasanta (which operates under the CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA brand), Danone, Grupo Lactalis Iberia, Nestlé Spain, Puleva, Schreiber Food Spain (formerly Senoble Ibérica), Central Lechera de Galicia (CELEGA), the Association of Dairy Companies of Galicia and the Guild of Dairy Industries of Catalonia (GIL).

It should be noted that the Court of Justice of the European Union extended the term to interrupt the prescription to 5 years in cartels, which means that all those farmers who have not interrupted the term of prescription, they can still start their claim. In accordance with the provisions of the CNMC Resolution, all those farmers who were affected during the period from 2000 to 2013 can claim their compensation, regardless of whether the farm continues active, has been terminated or retired, or even that there has been a change of ownership of the CEA.

Commercial Courts have objective and functional jurisdiction to hear claims regarding the “milk cartel” in the first instance. In order to determine territorial jurisdiction, the provisions of art. 52.1, epigraph 12, of the Civil Procedure Law, which states that with regard to unfair competition procedures, the court of the place where the defendant has his establishment, or failing that, his residence, will hear the procedure. That is, in the place where the company that participated in the cartel had its establishment, or its domicile.

However, since all the defendants are legal persons, it would be necessary to also assess the applicability of art. 51.1 of the Civil Procedure Law that allows legal persons to sue not only in the place of their domicile but also “in the place where the situation or legal relationship to which the dispute refers arose or should arise effects, provided that in said place they have an establishment open to the public or an authorized representative to act on behalf of the entity”

That is, those affected by the milk cartel may file a lawsuit in the court of the place where their farm is located. And, in the case of several claimants, to reduce costs in the procedure, they may file the claim in the court of the domicile where more than half of the claimants are located, all in accordance with what is indicated in article 53 of the Civil Procedure Law, which explicitly states that the competent court will be: “the one that should hear the largest number of accumulated actions and, ultimately, the one of the place that corresponds to the most important action quantitatively”.

It may interest you: “Department specialized in Agrarian Law

Patricia Prendes
Directora del Departamento de Derecho Agrario


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