Decision on whether to proceed with the investigation or to close the investigation
February to May 2017 (estimate)
Initial investigation: information gathering, including issue of formal or informal information requests and parties’ responses
16 February 2017
On 9 August 2017, the CMA closed its investigation into a suspected abuse of a dominant position by Unilever plc in the supply of single-wrapped impulse ice cream in the UK, on the basis that there were no grounds for action. The CMA was considering whether Unilever had abused a dominant position by offering deals or prices for impulse ice cream to retailers in the UK which were likely to have an exclusionary effect, restricting competition in the supply of those products.
The focus of the investigation related to promotional deals offered by Unilever from January 2013 to February 2017 under which Unilever supplied to retailers single-wrapped impulse ice cream products free of charge or at a reduced price if they purchased a minimum number of single-wrapped impulse ice cream products from Unilever – for example, ‘buy 8 cases get 4 cases free’.
The CMA assessed whether these promotional deals were constructed so as to offer the retailer a significant rebate for purchasing single-wrapped impulse ice cream products from Unilever. It considered whether the offers were likely to produce an exclusionary effect, by providing incentives to retailers to purchase a large proportion of their total requirements from Unilever with the likely effect of filling (or nearly filling) retailers’ freezers, and so of restricting competition in the supply of single-wrapped impulse ice cream products.
The CMA has concluded that, although Unilever is likely to have had an assured base of sales during the Relevant Period, and retailers’ freezer capacity was constrained, nevertheless the structure and availability of Unilever’s Package Offers, taken together with the purchasing patterns of retailers, were such that Unilever’s promotional deals were unlikely to have had an exclusionary effect.