The European Commission has announced its discovery that Chiquita and Belgian importer Pacific Fruit operated a price-fixing cartel in southern Europe between July 2004 and April 2005.

The cartel apparently violated the EU antitrust rules' ban on cartels and restrictive business practices, preventing consumers in Italy, Greece and Portugal from benefiting from undistorted competition.

The Commission revealed that it had imposed a fine of €8.92m on Pacific Fruit, with Chiquita receiving immunity for providing the information.

The two companies are said to have fixed weekly sales prices and exchanged price information related to their brands.

'Companies need to be aware that the Commission takes its anti-cartel enforcement duties very seriously,' said Joaquín Almunia, the EU competition commissioner. 'There are only two ways to avoid a fine: refrain from joining a cartel or, if you have fallen for it, repent rapidly and inform the Commission about it.'