On April 25, 2023, the French Competition Authority (“FCA”) imposed a total fine of €2.95 million on Bongard and the members of its distribution network following a settlement procedure for their participation in two anticompetitive vertical agreements in the bakery and pastry equipment sector.[1]


Bongard is one of the four main French manufacturers of bakery-pastry equipment. It distributes its products either directly to bakeries or through an exclusive distribution network of about 30 distributors throughout the French territory.  

Almost all distributors of Bongard’s network are members of the Association des Concessionaires Bongard (“ACB”), which acts as a liaison between Bongard and its distribution network. Although Bongard is not a member of the ACB, it has the right to attend its meetings and is involved in the definition and application of certain rules applicable within the ACB.

The FCA decision also concerns the Euromat purchasing office, which supplies Bongard’s distributors with products that are complementary to Bongard’s products.

Vertical price-fixing agreement

In its decision, the FCA found that between 2006 and 2019, the ACB and Bongard agreed to set a resale price for the “Paneotrad”, a machine for bakers that combines the functions of divider, shaper, and dough rest. Bongard and the ACB discussed and agreed upon the price of the “Paneotrad” over 22 meetings within the ACB.

To conclude to the existence of an “agreement” under Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”) and Article L.420-1 of the French Commercial Code, the FCA assessed the discussions within the ACB regarding the “Paneotrad” price and the rates subsequently communicated to all ACB members. It found that these were an expression of how the ACB members intended to behave on the market. Most importantly, the FCA noted that pursuant to the ACB’s bylaws, the ACB’s decisions were binding upon Bongard and all ACB members.

The FCA then found that almost all distributors respected price recommendations from the ACB, which were sometimes accompanied by bans on discounts. Consequently, the practices prevented Bongard distributors from setting the price of the “Paneotrad” independently, thereby constituting a by-object infraction (“resale price maintenance”)[2].

Restriction of passive sales

From 2008 to 2016, the ACB’s rules of procedure prohibited the sale or delivery of Bongard equipment and spare parts outside the exclusive territory granted to each distributor, including in response to spontaneous requests from potential customers located outside this territory. Accordingly, if a distributor made a prohibited sale outside its territory, it had to pay the amount of the corresponding profit to the exclusive distributor of the concerned territory.

The ACB’s rules also provided that Bongard and Euromat would oversee compliance with these provisions, which were unanimously adopted by all ACB members and reflected into Bongard’s exclusive distribution agreements.

Additionally, during its meetings, the ACB discouraged distributors from disclosing their prices on the Internet and even more so from setting up websites where customers could buy Bongard products.

Therefore, the FCA held that the ACB, Bongard, and Euromat implemented a ban on passive sales outside the exclusive territory of Bongrad’s distributors, which constitutes an infringement by-object of Article 101 TFEU and Article L.420-1 of the French Commercial Code.

Settlement procedure and fines

Bongard, the ACB, and Euromat did not contest the practices at stake and engaged in a settlement procedure with the FCA.

Based on the Settlement Notice[3] and the 2021 Fining Guidelines,[4] the FCA imposed fines of €1.5 million on the ACB, €1.2 million on Bongard, and €250 000 on Euromat, in accordance with the settlement terms. To set the fines, the FCA took into consideration the fact that the parties had spontaneously ended the ban on passive sales and that the ACB had played a leading role in the price-fixing practices.

[1]              FCA Decision No. 23-D-05 of April 25, 2023 regarding practices implemented in the bakery equipment distribution sector.

[2]              A violation by object occurs when the undertakings’ behavior is by its very nature harmful to the functioning of competition, meaning that the competition authority is not required to show the actual or potential anticompetitive effects of the practices.

[3]              FCA Procedural notice on the conditions for implementing the settlement procedure of December 27, 2018.

[4]              FCA Procedural notice on the method for determining fines of July 30, 2021.