Italian Antitrust Authority Fines Lidl, Deoleo and Coricelli for Misleading Consumers

The Italian Antitrust Authority imposed fines on the global discount supermarket chain Lidl and the world's largest olive oil producer for mislabeling olive oil.

Jun. 23, 2016
By Ylenia Granitto

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The Italian Antitrust Authority (Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato), imposed fines on the global dis­count super­mar­ket chain Lidl, the world’s largest olive oil pro­ducer, Deoleo, and Pietro Coricelli amount­ing to nearly €1 mil­lion, for unfair busi­ness prac­tices regard­ing their olive oil brands.

After reports by the con­sumer rights mag­a­zine Il Test Salvagente, the Konsumer Italia asso­ci­a­tion and the net­work of con­sumer asso­ci­a­tions, Rete Consumatori Italia, a com­plaint was sub­mit­ted con­cern­ing Deoleo olive oil brands Carapelli, Bertolli, and Sasso; Lidl’s Primadonna brand; and Coricelli.

The out­come of the organolep­tic test is suf­fi­cient to declare that olive oil does not com­ply with the cat­e­gory declared.- Italian Antitrust Authority

The Antitrust Authority, after an appraisal of evi­dence, deliv­ered the judg­ment, which called the extra vir­gin olive oil’ indi­ca­tion on the pack­ag­ing of the olive oils mis­lead­ing,” after tests found them to meet the para­me­ters of only the vir­gin’ grade.

The com­pa­nies are expected to appeal the deci­sion to the Latium regional admin­is­tra­tive court.

The inves­ti­ga­tion started after a report by the mag­a­zine for con­sumer rights Il Test Salvagente,’ which in May 2015 ana­lyzed olive oil con­tained in 20 bot­tles labeled extra vir­gin olive oil,’ dis­trib­uted and sold by the most pop­u­lar super­mar­kets in Italy.

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The analy­ses were con­ducted by the chem­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory of the cus­toms agency in Rome, which down­graded seven brands to vir­gin. The Prosecutor of Turin instructed the NAS, offi­cials from the anti-adul­ter­ation and health unit of the Carabinieri, to repeat the analy­ses, which con­firmed that the olive oils of some pop­u­lar brands includ­ing Carapelli, Bertolli, Sasso, Primadonna and Coricelli were not extra vir­gin as labeled.

The new ver­dict found the com­pa­nies engaged in prac­tices con­trary to pro­fes­sional dili­gence and appro­pri­ate to dis­tort the eco­nomic behav­ior of the aver­age con­sumer,” and were there­fore decep­tive.”

In quan­ti­fy­ing the fines, the Antitrust, given the seri­ous­ness of the breach,” took into account the eco­nomic size” and turnover” of the com­pa­nies, and the spread­ing of prac­tice.” (Carapelli, Bertolli and Sasso with­drew the prod­ucts belong­ing to the lots in ques­tion in May 2016; Coricelli removed the bot­tles from the shelves of super­mar­kets on December 2015.)

The defense argu­ment that sen­sory panel tests were unre­li­able” was rejected and the judges declared that the out­come of the organolep­tic test is suf­fi­cient to declare that olive oil does not com­ply with the cat­e­gory declared.”

Regarding De Cecco, another brand charged by the com­plaint, the Antitrust ruled that its prod­uct cor­re­sponds to the cat­e­gory extra vir­gin’ declared on the label.”

The Authority’s deci­sion is a strong sig­nal of pro­tec­tion for con­sumers,” said Matteo Pennacchia, respon­si­ble for the agri­food sec­tor of the asso­ci­a­tion Codici. We finally have the cer­tainty of decep­tion to which con­sumers have been mis­led for years. With our net­work, we will con­tinue the legal bat­tle in all the rel­e­vant fora.”

The pres­i­dent of Konsumer Fabrizio Premuti told Olive Oil Times, the Antitrust sen­tence pro­vides clar­ity on the major olive oil labels that we find in super­mar­kets and above all on those who sold us vir­gin olive oil declar­ing and adver­tis­ing it as extra vir­gin. Thanks to the syn­ergy between the inde­pen­dent infor­ma­tion of Il Test Salvagente and our asso­ci­a­tions, con­sumers today know that olive oils which were extra vir­gin only on the label were still on the shelves,” he pointed out.

A real Italian extra vir­gin olive oil has a cost of pro­duc­tion higher than €6, there­fore a €3 extra vir­gin olive oil should make you reflect. Every pur­chase should always be made in the aware­ness of a trans­par­ent and truth­ful offer, not of a sanc­tions process.”


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