July 2, 2024

European Commission imposes €15.9 million fine for obstructing a competition-related inspection

The European Commission recently announced that it fined International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. and International Flavors & Fragrances IFF France SAS (together ”IFF”) for, during a Commission inspection in 2023, intentionally deleting messages that had been exchanged with a competitor using a social media app.  IFF was fined €15.9 million for obstructing an antitrust inspection.  The Commission reported that this is the first time that it has imposed a fine for the deletion of messages exchanged via social media apps on a mobile telephone.

According to the Commission, while examining IFF employees’ mobile phones, an inspector detected that a senior employee had, prior to the inspection but after the employee had been informed it would be taking place, deleted WhatsApp messages that contained business-related information exchanged with a competitor.

The fine was imposed in accordance with Regulation No 1/2003, which enables the Commission to inspect companies suspected of breaching EU competition rules and to impose fines of up to 1 percent of the total turnover of companies that are found to have intentionally or negligently obstructed an antitrust investigation.  According to the Commission, the fine amount represents 0.15 percent of IFF’s total turnover – an amount that reflects the serious nature of infringement, which was not disclosed by IFF but inspectors were forced to detect themselves after examining employees’ mobile phones.  The fine also rewarded IFF’s proactive cooperation with investigators during and after the inspection, which included help recovering the deleted data.

European Commission Press Release