Christmas Trees Are Rotten in Denmark

Regulators investigate price fixing of Christmas trees. Chocolate is dark, too.
Stephen TaubDecember 21, 2007

The Danish Christmas Tree Growers’ Association got something even worse than coal in its stocking this year: an indictment for serious economic crimes.

The organization was charged with rigging prices for the trees — no small matter given that Denmark is the number-one exporter of Christmas trees in Europe, the Associated Press reported.

The charges were brought after a one-year investigation and during a year when prices for the trees surged by more than 20 percent in Europe, according to the report. The AP noted that the charges came after warnings from Denmark’s competition authority in 2001 and in 2005, urging the tree growers’ association to stop giving its members wholesale-price guidelines in order to avoid widespread competition.

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The association has blamed a shortage of trees for the skyrocketing prices, the AP report said. About 85 percent of Danish trees are sold abroad, mostly in Germany, Britain, and France, according to the report.

In related stocking-stuffer news, the U.S. Department of Justice has launched a price-fixing investigation of the chocolate industry. The Wall Street Journal reported that Mars Inc. has been contacted by the Justice Department’s antitrust division, and that Nestle USA was “aware” of a preliminary probe. Last month Canadian regulators began an investigation into price fixing at the Canadian units of chocolatiers Nestle SA, Cadbury Schweppes Plc, Hershey Co., and Mars, according to a report from Reuters.