In light of all the debates and discussions on anti-trust practices revolving around the PLDT-Smart-Sun deal, another giant multinational, Nestle Philippines, Inc. (NPI) is actually going to be held for trial for criminal violation of anti-competition provisions.
On 15 August 2011, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City issued a resolution finding that there is sufficient evidence to hold NPI for trial for violation of Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes any person who shall enter into any contract or agreement, or shall take part in any conspiracy or combination in the form of a trust or otherwise, which results in restraint of trade or commerce and prevents by artificial means free competition in the market.
High-ranking officers of NPI, namely Doreswamy Nandkishore (former CEO), John Martin Miller (current CEO), Shahab Bachani and Peter Noszek were impleaded for conspiring to commit anti-competitive acts. The resolution found that NPI’s practice of resale price maintenance constituted price-fixing which results in exclusion of competition in a particular market.
Since current anti-trust bills are still pending in Senate, the OCP made reference to the US Sherman Act which considers resale price maintenance as illegal per se. According to the resolution, the vertical agreement existing between NPI and its distributors, FDI Forefront II Trading Corporation and Service Edge Distributors, Inc., was anti-competitive since Nestle fixed the resale price of its products, while its distributors were obligated to sell Nestle products only at the price fixed by NPI. Apparently, failure by the distributors to sell the products at the prices fixed by NPI would result in the unilateral termination of their distributorship agreement by NPI. The price fixing was found to be harmful to consumers because it meant that consumers cannot buy the product at a lower price than that fixed by NPI.
This practice of price-fixing by NPI was deemed as a violation of Paragraph 1 of Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code. Nandkishore, Miller, Bachani and Noszek were found to have knowingly committed the crime or to have permitted or failed to prevent the commission of the crime. The NPI officers will stand trial before a Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.