FACUA accuses eight major supermarket chains in Spain of ‘fixing’ olive oil prices

Image of olive oil in a supermarket in Spain.

Image of olive oil in a supermarket in Spain. Credit: Tamorlan/Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

A recent study carried out by FACUA-Consumers in Action discovered what they believed to be a plot by supermarket chains in Spain to ‘fix’ prices.

According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), olive oil prices skyrocketed between last September and the same month of 2022 by almost 70 per cent, which represented its largest year-on-year increase in 21 years.

In a public appearance this Tuesday, November 8, FACUA spokesperson Rubén Sánchez explained the results of the organisation’s research.

What did FACUA discover?

FACUA detected that eight of the main supermarket and hypermarket chains in Spain had allegedly increased the price of one-litre bottles of extra virgin olive oil of their own brands by nine per cent in November. Prices had previously remained the same or varied by no more than 1 cent for the last three months.

‘These are increases that do not respond to price increases at source and reveal a parallel price-fixing strategy that the association has reported to the National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) in order to open an investigation and try to find out if there is an agreement between the large distribution chains’, he explained.

As of today, the price of a one-litre bottle of extra virgin olive oil is identical in the white brands of Alcampo, Aldi, Carrefour, Dia, Eroski, Hipercor, Lidl and Mercadona.

The same is true for three-litre containers and for 750 ml bottles, where the maximum difference is only one cent. As for virgin olive oils, prices are also the same for the one and three-litre bottles of the chains that sell them under their own brands.

Who did FACUA report their findings to?

Beyond the possible existence of a price agreement contrary to the competition law, FACUA warned that: ‘The parallel increases that the large chains have incurred in their own olive oil brands which may also represent illegal increases in profit margins’.

This is because: ‘Article 72 of the royal decree-law by which the VAT reduction in force until the end of the year was approved prohibits any increases in margins on foods affected by the measure’, stressed Sánchez.

For this reason, the association has also reported the increases to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. The FACUA spokesperson said that they had already been: ‘reporting price increases on foods affected by the VAT reduction for months so that it can initiate an investigation’.

The organisation insisted that the Ministry had the power to sanction anybody found violating the limitations established by legislation under Article 47 of the general law for the protection of consumers.

What are the prices of own-brand extra virgin olive oil in November?

At the beginning of November, FACUA’s analysis determined that the eight reported distribution chains sold a one-litre container of their own-brand extra virgin olive oil for €9.25.

That is 9 per cent more expensive than in September and October, when Dia, Eroski, Hipercor and Mercadona offered it at €8.50, while Alcampo, Aldi, Lidl and Carrefour had it at €8.49.

In the case of the 750 ml bottle of extra virgin, Alcampo and Carrefour are selling it this month for €7.59 and the other six chains for €7.60. In September and October, they all had it on sale at €7.15.

There was also a coincidence this month in the own brands of the five chains that offered three-litre containers of extra virgin. They cost €27.60 in Dia, Eroski and Mercadona and €27.59 in Aldi and Lidl when in October, Dia sold it for €23.40 and the rest for €24.99 or €25.

What about own-brand virgin olive oils?

A similar situation was detected with the own-brand virgin olive oils. Aldi, Dia, Carrefour, Hipercor, Lidl and Mercadona offer this variety in one-litre bottles and all six have set the price this month at €8.25.

Likewise, the four supermarkets that also have three-litre containers of their brands are selling them in November at practically identical prices: Aldi and Lidl at €24.59 and Dia and Mercadona at €24.60.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com