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Class action targets alleged chocolate bar price fixing

Pretty much anyone who bought a chocolate bar between 2001 and 2008 is part of a class action lawsuit alleging that Canada's biggest producers of confectionery products conspired to keep prices artificially high for most of the previous decade.

Charles Wright, one of the London, Ont.-based lawyers at Siskinds LLP helping handle the class action, says unless a person opted out of the suit, they are in.

Mr. Wright says the class action alleges that Cadbury Adams Canada Inc., Mars Canada Inc., Hershey Canada Inc., Nestle Canada Inc. and some related companies conspired to fix the prices of chocolate products, such as Caramilk bars, Smarties, M&Ms and Oh Henry! bars, in Canada.

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It further alleges representatives of the companies held secret meetings to discuss prices and penalized stores that undercut the recommended retail prices by limiting the supply of goodies available to them.

Last week, Cadbury agreed to pay $5.7-million to have itself removed as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Just as importantly, Wright said, the company is providing the plaintiffs with valuable information that will help with the litigation against the other defendants.

He says the bad news is, no matter how much money the class action receives in settlements, individuals are not going to see a dime.

That's because the volume of their purchases, even if a big box retailers, won't be enough to justify cutting you a cheque.

Plus, the lawyers will skim a maximum of 25 per cent off the top in fees.

In situations where the court decides people have overpaid for various items, the settlement money is typically donated to a charity, such as the United Way, or to food banks.

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