As the June issue of Catering Insight was going to press, the news broke that the industry had been waiting almost 2 years for: the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into price fixing in the catering equipment industry has brought some concrete results.

Unfortunately for Foster Refrigerator and parent company, ITW, the long arm of the law has collared them, with the CMA concluding that they had broken competition regulation by restricting dealers from offering online discounts.

Story continues below

This resulted in a fine of £2,298,820 for Foster – but it could have been even worse.

Story continues below

The initial figure was reduced by 10% for ITW setting up a comprehensive programme to train its staff in competition law compliance, and a further 20% to reflect savings due to ITW’s admission and co-operation with the CMA under a settlement agreement.

The CMA first issued a formal allegation against ITW in January 2016, and the business has now admitted that it engaged in resale price maintenance (RPM) in internet sales of its Foster commercial fridges from 2012 to 2014.

According to the CMA: “Foster Refrigerator operated a ‘minimum advertised price’ (MAP) policy and threatened dealers with sanctions – including threatening to charge them higher cost prices for Foster products or stopping supply – if they advertised below that minimum price.”

Catering Insight contacted Foster, and the company made the following statement: “ITW has accepted the findings of the CMA in relation to the online MAP policy that was operated by its division, Foster Refrigerator.

“ITW takes its legal obligations extremely seriously and has fully cooperated with the CMA. It is committed to complying with relevant competition law.”