(Updates with McDonald's, European Commission comments)
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, April 4 French, German and Italian
groups urged their national competition authorities on Tuesday
to look into alleged anti-competitive practices by McDonald's
, potentially putting the U.S. fast-food chain on course
for multiple investigations in Europe.
The three complaints share similar concerns about McDonald's
franchising terms and conditions, including prices set for
products sold at franchises, saying consumers are charged more
than at McDonald's own stores as a result.
With more than 80 percent of its outlets worldwide not
company-owned, franchising is an important business model for
The French competition authority confirmed it had received a
complaint but declined further comment. The German and Italian
antitrust authorities did not immediately respond to requests
McDonald's rejected the allegations.
"Our franchisees set their own menu prices. Our business
model helps our franchisees secure prime real estate locations
and reflects a significant level of company investment in the
restaurant premises as well as through training expertise and
well-established, high-quality supplier networks," spokeswoman
Terri Hickey said.
In a legal memo setting out its complaint to the French
competition authority seen by Reuters, French consumer body
Indecosa-CGT, which has 672,000 members, said McDonald's France
forced franchisees to charge higher prices than at its own
German law firm SKW Schwarz filed a similar complaint to the
German cartel body on behalf of a group that it declined to
The document seen by Reuters cited alleged anti-competitive
clauses such as the tying of franchising deals with lease
agreements, restrictions on suppliers and excessive rent for
Italian consumer groups Codacons, Movimento Difesa del
Cittadino and Cittadinanzattiva said on Tuesday they would
withdraw a 2016 complaint to the European Commission because of
the slow pace of procedure and take it to the Italian watchdog
The Commission confirmed the withdrawal.
The national competition agencies can impose fines up to 10
percent of a company's global turnover for breaches of antitrust
rules as well as ordering them to stop unfair practices.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing
by Mark Potter and Susan Thomas)