Le Monde reports today that a group of some of the biggest and best-known perfume houses and labels in France have been condemned for price fixing, an unfair and in fact illegal practice which attempts to curb competition by harmonizing prices to maintain them at their highest levels possible. The group of brands highlighted, which includes both prestigious perfume houses like Guerlain and Hermès and household-name distributors like Sephora and Marionnaud, will have to pay a total fine amounting to more than 40 millions of Euros...
Their supplier departments have been accused of strong-arming and intimidating distributors with potential commercial punitive measures if prices were not aligned.
The 13 brands concerned are: Beauté Prestige International (Jean Paul Gaultier et Issey Miyake), Chanel, Clarins Fragance Group, Comptoir nouveau de la parfumerie - Hermès Parfums, Parfums Christian Dior, Elco (Clinique et Estée Lauder), Guerlain, L'Oréal, LVMH Fragance Brands, Sisheido Europe, YSL Beauté. The condemned distributors are Marionnaud, Sephora and Nocibé.
Consumers and comparative shoppers at the international level cannot fail to notice the discrepancy existing in fragrance prices, say, between the French and US markets.
Beyond the psychology-of-prices argument, it seems that the gap is willingly maintained in France. A recent example we brought up was that of Clinique Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's Reserve which is priced 100,50€ in France vs. $75 in the US. That's a contrast of $129 vs. $75 for the same product.
The practices which have been condemned are for the period running from 1997 to 2000. The Appelate Court of Paris has confirmed a decision by the Autorité de la Concurrence dating back to 2006. The fine has been reduced from 46,2 millions to 40,2 millions.
If the judgment has any concrete consequences, it would be that of seeing more moderately priced French perfumes.