Tnuva’s offices - Nir Keidar - 11102011
A cow greets visitors at Tnuva’s offices. Photo by Nir Keidar
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The Antitrust Authority was reportedly surprised by overt discussions of alleged monopoly pricing at Tnuva, sources said on Monday.

In its raid of the company's offices two weeks ago, the trustbuster uncovered e-mails apparently backing its suspicions that the company used its monopoly status to price gouge.

It seized 25 boxes of documents during that raid, and is still examining them.

The Antitrust Authority refused to comment.

Although investigators are far from reaching conclusions, sources say the commission staff examining the Tnuva documents have been surprised by the overt nature of some of the internal communications over prices, allegedly including conscious efforts to take advantage of Tnuva's monopoly status.

Doing so would be illegal under antitrust law.

Internal correspondence allegedly centered around a recommendation by the McKinsey and Co. consulting firm that Tnuva exploit this status to increase prices. However, McKinsey was simply an advisor, and any decision to raise prices would have been Tnuva's alone.

One of the company's alleged steps in response to McKinsey's recommendations was to increase cottage cheese prices. This ultimately sparked this summer's cottage cheese boycott, which snowballed into a nationwide consumer protest and a widescale boycott of Tnuva.

The investigation of the company is part of a broader probe into the dairy industry as a whole, including Strauss and Tara dairies. Unlike Tnuva, these two companies apparently gave the trustbuster information voluntarily.