Russian competition authorities launched a consumer protection case against Swiss chocolate brand Lindt on Tuesday, saying its chocolate sold in Russia is of inferior quality to that available in western Europe.
The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) said the brand, controlled by Lindt and Sprüngli, advertised its chocolate in Russia on the basis of “guaranteed product quality” and its “high manufacturing reputation.” But in quality tests on Lindt products conducted in 2019, the FAS said it found the confectionery in Russia was worse than that available in other countries.
It said this duped Russian consumers and could have given the brand an unfair competitive advantage over its rivals.
The brand’s advertising “creates the impression that [Russian] consumers are offered the same product that is produced and sold under the same brand in western Europe,” the agency said in a statement.
“When manufacturers offer adapted products to Russian consumers … and do not inform them about it, the Agency sees such actions as a violation of antitrust legislation,” said Andrei Kashevarov, FAS deputy head. He added that Lindt’s actions could have “redistributed market demand and led to the manufacturer obtaining unjustified benefits which negatively affected competition.”
The FAS said it first warned Lindt about its findings in December 2019. It said it has not received a sufficient response from the chocolate maker since then and would therefore be launching a formal anti-competition case against the Russian subsidiary of Lindt and Sprüngli.
The company could be fined between 100,000-500,000 rubles ($1,350-$6,700).