U.S. based snacks company, Mondelēz, has been found to have engaged in 22 anti-competitive agreements or concerted practices by the Commission. The Commission also found that Mondelēz abused its dominant position in the market for the sale of certain types of chocolate bars in several countries.  After a three-year investigation during which Mondelez followed the cooperation process, they have agreed to settle the investigation, with the Commission announcing a €337.5 million fine for hindering cross-border trade of chocolates, biscuits, and coffee products between Member States, in violation of EU competition rules.

Background to the investigation

As part of the Commission’s self-initiated investigation of suspected anticompetitive practices, it carried out an unannounced inspection of Mondelēz’s premises in Austria, Belgium, and Germany in November 2019 and initiated formal proceedings in January 2021. In opening the investigation, Commissioner Vestager reiterated the importance of maintaining trade in the internal market that is free from anticompetitive practices to “lower prices and increase the variety of products offered across Member States.”[1] The investigation was preceded by a study published by the Commission in 2020 regarding territorial supply constraints in the EU, which revealed that common food and drink prices can vary significantly between EU Member States.[2]

The Commission’s main concerns at the time were that Mondelēz may have restricted ‘parallel trade’ of its products between EU Member States through agreements and unilateral practices.[3] In particular, the Commission sought to investigate the following potentially anti-competitive practices:

  • Possible limitations of sales territories within the EU through agreements determining the locations where traders can sell their products or limiting passive sales;
  • Possible curtailing of parallel trade through agreements that raise prices or limit volumes, specifically for wholesale customers trading products across Member States;
  • Possible payments/compensations to wholesale customers to prevent them from engaging in parallel trade or procuring products from parallel trade;
  • Possible restrictions on the language used on packaging either unilaterally or through agreements with traders; and
  • Possible refusal to supply certain traders with a view to restricting imports into certain markets.[4]


The Commission’s investigation found that, for a number of years, Mondelēz engaged in 22 anticompetitive agreements or concerted practices, and abused its dominant position through unilateral conduct.[5] More precisely, the infringements of Articles 101 and 102 TFEU alleged by the Commission included:

  • Territorial restrictions on wholesalers and distributors. Between 2012 and 2019, Mondelēz imposed territorial restrictions on seven wholesale customers (traders/brokers), preventing them from reselling Mondelēz products to certain territories or customers. Additionally, between 2006 and 2020, ten exclusive distributors were prevented from responding to sales requests from customers located in other Member States without Mondelēz’s prior permission.[6]
  • Abuse of dominant position. Between 2015 and 2019, Mondelēz abused its dominant position in the market for chocolate tablets by refusing to supply a broker in Germany to avoid the resale of these products in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Romania, where prices were higher. Similarly, Mondelēz ceased supplying chocolate tablet products in the Netherlands to avoid these being imported into Belgium, where Mondelēz charged higher prices for these products.[7]


As we await the release of the decision, the announcement of this fine already provides several important takeaways:

  • Broader implications. The case seems to be part of a wider trend of the Commission’s renewed focus on tackling restrictions of parallel trade.[8] In this context, recent decisions against other major companies, such as the fines imposed on AB InBev in 2019, and Valve and video game makers in 2021, demonstrate the Commission’s efforts in fighting behaviors that fragment the single market.[9] Additionally, several Member States have proposed  measures addressing territorial supply constraints ex-ante, in addition to punishing them ex post via existing EU competition rules.[10] They have advocated for new legal instruments that would prohibit unfair discrimination of retailers on the basis of its place of establishment.  The recently published report on the future of the EU Single Market, by former Italian Prime Minister Letta, also discussed territorial supply constraints and called for national authorities to increase their capacity to tackle these through a formal procedure common to all cross-border cases.[11]
  • Enforcement and deterrence. Commissioner Vestager’s speech following the announcement of the fine set the decision as a clear signal to the market, expressing the expectation that it will “deter companies from engaging in illegal behavior that fragments the Single Market” and referred to several ongoing Commission investigations in the food retail sector. [12] As explained in the Commissioner’s speech, this type of cases are not novel as the Commission has a track-record of sanctions for similar behavior. Restrictions to parallel trade “are among the most serious restrictions of competition,”[13] and are therefore likely to be found to be restrictive of competition law without the need to establish their restrictive effects.[14]
  • Fine reduction. This is the seventh time that the Commission has granted a fine reduction under the non-cartel cooperation procedure.[15] While the initial fine was set according to both the gravity and duration of the infringements, as well as the value of Mondelēz’s sales related to the anticompetitive practices, the final amount was reduced by 15%. In exchange for this reduction, Mondelēz cooperated with the Commission’s investigation and expressly acknowledged its liability for the infringement.[16]
  • Future outlook. The Commission’s determination to use its robust enforcement mechanisms in scrutinizing a wide array of business practices, compels companies to remain vigilant. In order to avoid actions that might be construed as anticompetitive, it is crucial for them to meticulously review their contracts and operational practices, while providing strict compliance trainings to their employees.

[1]              See Commission Press Release IP/21/281, “Antitrust: Commission opens formal investigation into possible trade restrictions by Mondelēz,” January 28, 2021, available here.

[2]              Ibid.

[3]              The Commission’s official glossary explains that “parallel traders buy products in countries where they are sold at lower prices and sell them in high-price countries.” European Commission, Directorate-General for Competition, Glossary of terms used in EU competition policy – Antitrust and control of concentrations, Publications Office, 2002, available here.

[4]              Commission Press Release IP/21/281, supra,fn 1.

[5]              Commission Press Release, IP/24/2727, “Commission fines Mondelēz €337.5 million for cross-border trade restrictions,” May 23, 2024, available here.

[6]              Ibid. According to the Commission’s Press Release, these restrictions covered all EU markets and were designed to maintain higher prices in specific national markets.

[7]              Ibid.

[8]              The study on territorial supply constraints (TSCs) in the EU retail sector, published by the Commission in 2020, suggested that if retailers in countries with higher purchase prices sourced their supplies from countries with lower purchase prices, consumers could potentially save an estimated €14.1 billion (or 3.5%) on their purchases of ‘bread and cereals,’ ‘other food,’ ‘alcoholic beverages,’ and ‘non-alcoholic beverages,’ in the set of 16 countries for which retailer purchase price information was available for the study. See European Commission, Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Study on territorial supply constraints in the EU retail sector – Final report, Publications Office, 2020, available here. See also, Information by the delegations on the need to eliminate territorial supply constraints on the Single Market – Information by the delegations of the Netherlands, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Luxembourg and Slovakia, 9757/24, May 7, 2024, available here.

[9]              See AB InBev Beer Trade Restrictions (Case COMP/AT.40134), Commission decision of May 13, 2019; and Focus Home (Case COMP/AT.40413), Koch Media (Case COMP/AT.40414), Zenimax (Case COMP/AT.40420), Bandai Namco (Case COMP/AT.40422), and Capcom (Case COMP/AT.40424), Commission decisions of January 20, 2021. See also our Cleary Antitrust Watch Blog post, “Commission Publishes The Infringement Decision In Video Games For Geo-Blocking,” August 23, 2022, available here.

[10]             Communication from the Government of the Netherlands, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, “EU Member States propose approach to eliminate territorial supply constraints,” May 23, 2024, available here. See also, Council Public Register of Documents, Note 9757/24, “Information by the delegations on the need to eliminate territorial supply constraints on the Single Market,” May 7, 2024, available here.

[11]             Enrico Letta, “Much more than a market Speed, Security, Solidarity. Empowering the Single Market to deliver a sustainable future and prosperity for all EU Citizens”, April 2024, available here. See also our Cleary Antitrust Watch Blog post, “Enrico Letta’s Report – The Future Of The Single Market,” April 17, 2024, available here.

[12]             Commission Press Corner, SPEECH/24/2784, “Remarks by Executive Vice-President Vestager on the adoption of an antitrust decision against Mondelēz for cross-border trade restrictions,” May 23, 2024, available here.

[13]          Commission Press Release, IP/24/2727, “Commission fines Mondelēz €337.5 million for cross-border trade restrictions,” May 23, 2024, available here.

[14]          See Focus Home (Case COMP/AT.40413), Koch Media (Case COMP/AT.40414), Zenimax (Case COMP/AT.40420), Bandai Namco (Case COMP/AT.40422), and Capcom (Case COMP/AT.40424, Commission decisions of January 20, 2021, paras. 281 and 292.  See also AB InBev Beer Trade Restrictions (Case COMP/AT.40134), Commission decision of May 13, 2019, paragraph 93.

[15] Since 2016, the Commission has consistently allowed undertakings in non-cartel cases to benefit from fine reductions under point 37 of the Guidelines on the method of setting fines imposed pursuant to Article 23(2)(a) of Regulation No 1/2003, OJ 2006, C 210/2. The six previous cases are: (i) ARA Foreclosure, (Case COMP/AT.39759), Commission decision of September 20, 2016; (ii) Asus (Case COMP/AT.40465), Denon & Marantz (Case COMP/AT.40469), Philips (Case COMP/AT.40181) and Pioneer (Case COMP/AT.40182), Commission decisions of July 24, 2018; (iii) Guess, (Case COMP/AT.40428), Commission decision of December 17, 2018; (iv) MasterCard II (Case COMP/AT.40049) Commission decision of January 22, 2019; (v) Ancillary Sports Merchandise (Case COMP/AT.40436), Commission decision of March 25, 2019; and, (vi) AB InBev Beer Trade Restrictions (Case COMP/AT.40134), Commission decision of May 13, 2019.

[16] Apart from acknowledging the infringement, undertakings can also cooperate by providing evidence voluntarily or by helping in the design of remedies, in which case, there can be more substantive fine reductions (see for example the 2018 decision on the Guess case, where the Commission granted a 50% fine reduction after Guess?, Inc., Guess? Europe, B.V. and Guess Europe provided evidence representing “significant added value,” and revealed an additional restriction to competition that had not been uncovered by the Commission (Guess (Case COMP/AT.40428), Commission Decision of December 17, 2018, para. 200).