IFF fined €15.9m for obstructing EU antitrust investigation

The European Commission has fined International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) €15.9m ($17m) for obstructing an inspection last year into a suspected cartel in the supply of fragrances and fragrance ingredients.

The Commission found that during the inspection, a senior employee of IFF intentionally deleted WhatsApp messages exchanged with a competitor. 

In March 2023, the Commission carried out inspections at the premises of companies active in the consumer fragrance industry.

During its inspection, the Commission asked to review the mobile telephones of some of IFF's employees.

While reviewing, the Commission detected that a senior employee had deleted WhatsApp messages exchanged with a competitor containing business-related information. The deletion took place after the employee had been informed about the Commission's inspection.

After the detection, IFF immediately acknowledged the facts and proactively cooperated with the Commission during and after the inspection.

IFF cooperated by helping the Commission recover the deleted data.

In March 2024, the Commission opened proceedings against IFF for obstructing its investigation.

IFF engaged in a cooperation procedure by acknowledging its liability and accepting the maximum amount of the fine.

“IFF quickly helped the commission recover the deleted messages,” the company said in a statement.

“This former employee’s actions — which violated IFF policy and legal guidance — are not tolerated. We stand firm in our commitment to ethical conduct and adherence to the law.”

Margrethe Vestager, the Commission’s executive vice-president for competition policy added: “Compliance with antitrust investigations is of paramount importance. Companies that undergo an inspection must ensure that employees do not delete or manipulate business records.

“This includes communications on mobile phones. Today’s decision to fine IFF shows that we will not tolerate any action that could impact the effectiveness of our investigations and that we firmly pursue and sanction any such obstructions,” she said.

The Commission's investigation into the fragrance industry (AT.40826) is still ongoing and is unrelated to this decision.

Latest Issues

in-cosmetics Korea 2024

Hall C, Coex, Seoul, South Korea
24th - 26th July 2024

in-cosmetics Latin America 2024

São Paulo, Brazil
25th - 26th September 2024