EU widens scope of food delivery cartel concerns probe

European Union antitrust regulators have carried out another series of raids on two online food delivery companies headquartered inside the bloc.

The Commission hasn’t named the companies involved but the move follows unannounced EU inspections back in July 2022 — which were reported to have taken place at the offices of Spain’s Glovo and German’s Delivery Hero. The two companies later confirmed the inspections.

Last year the EU said its actions were linked to concerns over potential breaches of competition laws against forming cartels and other restrictive business practices. The latest inspections are a continuation of that 2022 investigation, per the Commission, which said the scope of the probe has widened.

“The scope of the investigation, initially including alleged market allocations, has now been extended to cover additional conduct in the form of alleged no-poach agreements and exchanges of commercially sensitive information,” it said in a press release.

Glovo, and its parent company Delivery Hero, were contacted for comment.

Update: The pair have confirmed the inspections, saying they are “committed to cooperating fully” with the Commission’s probe. In a statement Delivery Hero added:

We can confirm that the European Commission (“Commission”) has conducted an inspection at our offices in Berlin and Barcelona. The fact that the Commission carries out such an inspection does not mean that the Commission has concluded that there has been an actual infringement of competition law nor does it prejudge the outcome. Delivery Hero is committed to cooperating fully with the Commission.

Berlin-based Delivery Hero was founded back in 2011, and now has operations in some 70+ countries globally — operating under a number of different food delivery and quick commerce brands, including several picked up by acquisition. The latter includes Barcelona-based Glovo, a delivery app and q-commerce platform with a food focus, which was founded in 2014 but joined Delivery Hero at the back end of 2021.

While this is the second batch of unannounced inspections on the two food delivery firms the Commission’s PR emphasizes such raids are “a preliminary step toward investigating suspected anticompetitive practices”. “The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself,” it adds.

There’s no set legal deadline for completing investigations of anticompetitive conduct. So it’s unclear when the investigation might wind up — nor what outcome it could have. Although it’s notable the Commission has expanded the scope of what it’s looking into.

The EU runs a leniency program for infringing companies that choose to cooperate with cartel investigations. It also provides a whistle-blower tool where individuals and companies can report antitrust violations on an anonymous basis.

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