Chocolate Conspiracy 20130621

The makers of Hershey's and Mars chocolate bars have agreed to pay $23.2 million in a class-action lawsuit over price-fixing in the Canadian market. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

 In some sweet news for chocolate lovers, four of Canada’s largest candy bar makers have agreed to pay $23.2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit  over price-fixing in the Canadian market.

Three of the defendants — Cadbury Adams Canada Inc., Nestle Canada Inc and Mars Canada Inc., have denied wrongdoing in the case, but say they will settle to avoid a long and costly court case.

A fourth defendant in the price-fixing case brought by the Competition Bureau, Hershey Canada Inc., pleaded guilty in June to fixing the price of chocolate confectionery and was fined $4 million.

The class-action case claimed consumers paid inflated prices for products such as Twix, Mars, Oh Henry, Dairy Milk, Crispy Crunch, Aero and Smarties between 2001 and 2008.

Anyone who bought Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle and/or Mars chocolate products in Canada between Feb. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2008, is eligible for compensation.

But courts in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec have decided that only commercial businesses and consumers who bought at least $1,000 worth of chocolate between Oct. 1, 2005, and Sept. 30, 2007, will get compensation.

If you didn’t keep the receipts, the maximum claim is $50. Commercial vendors are expected to be beneficiaries of that ruling and the $1,000 threshold.

Because few consumers are likely to claim their $1,000, 10 per cent of the available settlement will be distributed to several non-profit organizations to promote competition and consumer education and advocacy in Canada.

The deadline for filing a claim to receive direct compensation is Dec. 15, 2013.

The Competition Bureau is still pursuing court cases against Nestle Canada and two of its former executives; Mars Canada, and national wholesale network ITWAL Ltd. as well as ITWAL's chief executive officer.

With files from The Canadian Press