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Hungarian competition watchdog fines Auchan

Hungary's competition office (GVH) has fined retailer Auchan Magyarország HUF 30 million for failing to provide the data requested by GVH in spite of being repeatedly called upon to do so, GVH said on Monday.

GVH started a procedure in February this year against the company over products advertised by the company with the slogan "Auchan Hungarikum" though they do not belong into the category of distinctively Hungarian products indicated by this designation.

Using the slogan along with Hungarian folklore motifs could mislead consumers into believing that the products are 100% Hungarian-made, while the raw materials used to make the products are often likely to be of non-Hungarian origin, GVH said. GVH asked the retailer to provide it information necessary to decide on the matter.

GVH originally imposed a fine of HUF 500,000 on the retailer for its failure to cooperate. However, in the appeals procedure initiated by Auchan, the competition council established that the company had been impeding the investigation with unjustified excuses and imposed a larger fine more proportionate to the company's revenue.

Auchan Magyarország communications chief Katalin Gillemot told MTI that the company submitted an appeal against the resolution on the fine mid-August as they are convinced that they have not violated any regulations.

Gillemot said GVH and Auchan hold fundamentally different views concerning the assessment of the products advertised in the Hungarian specialty products campaign of August last year.

Gillemot pointed out that GVH did not fine Auchan over the activity, but the fact that they did not provide certain data, adding that Auchan indeed did not submit any further data because they believe that such data do not play any part in the procedure.

Gillemot emphasized that there is currently no statutory regulation on Hungarian specialty products, or "Hungarikums", therefore, there is no precise definition of what such products are. "You cannot claim that the term can only be used with regard to products made using Hungarian raw materials in Hungarian ownership by Hungarian workforce", Gillemot said. When such a statutory regulation has been created, Auchan will fully comply with it, but currently there is not one, Gillemot added.