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Fraud Officials Are Investigating Sales That Caused Nutella Riots in France

The French grocery chain that made headlines last week when its drastic price drops caused literal knock-down-drag-out fights is now the subject of an investigation, according to Le Parisien. The French daily reports the Directorate General of Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control has launched an inquiry into whether the price slashes met regulations.

Grocery chain Intermarché's 70 percent discount on jars of Nutella caused turmoil in France last Thursday as hundreds of French citizens fought to buy stockpiles of the chocolate and hazelnut spread. The chain marked down the price of a jar from 4.50 euros to 1.41 euros — from $5.60 to about $1.75.

Nutella's manufacturer, the Italian company Ferrero, distanced itself from the disarray, stating that the promotion was "decided unilaterally" by Intermarché.

Now, investigators think that the promotion might have violated trading laws.

France has strict consumer trading codes. According to the code, stores in France cannot engage in "product dumping" or sell products at a loss. France has two sales seasons, or two times a year where discounts are permitted — January and August. And those are the only times when a retailer is permitted to sell at under cost.

Products the store purchased within a month of the promotion must not be dumped at a loss, according to the code.

France's finance ministry will look at when Intermarché purchased the jars of Nutella, and at what price, to try to determine whether the sale could be considered an unfair practice.

Meanwhile, France continues to try to reconcile what took place last week and why. The riots may have been the result of a lack of buying power in affected communities, French daily La Croix reported.

The charge for discounted jars of Nutella underlines "a real problem of purchasing power," said Member of the European Parliament Yannick Jadot in an interview with France Info.

Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Travert also commented on the situation in an interview with BFM-TV: "They are people who live by little, who rush on a brand of spread that they can not offer their children every day because they can not afford it."

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