Imperial Tobacco Says U.K. Regulator Must Drop Price-Fixing Case

Britain’s antitrust regulator must scrap its price-fixing trial over U.K. cigarette sales after being forced to abandon several claims in the seven-year-old case, Imperial Tobacco Plc told a tribunal today.

“One can’t conduct litigation on this basis,” Imperial’s lawyer, Howard said. “To say this is hopeless is really an understatement.”

Cigarettes

Scattered cigarettes

Mark Howard, a lawyer for the company, told the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London that the Office of Fair Trading’s case had been “destroyed.” The court had asked the regulator to explain how it will continue fighting appeals of fines against Imperial Tobacco, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and 10 other manufacturers and retailers.

The OFT fined the group a total of 225 million pounds ($359.3 million) last year over claims tobacco companies and retailers colluded to fix prices on cigarettes, hand-rolled tobacco, pipe tobacco and cigars from 2001 to 2003. J Sainsbury Plc, the U.K.’s third-largest supermarket chain, was a whistleblower that gave evidence that led to the penalties.

OFT spokeswoman Kasia Reardon declined to comment.

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