COPENHAGEN (AP) -- Danish Christmas tree growers on Thursday were fined 400,000 kroner ($79,470) for rigging prices, doubling a previous fine.

The Eastern High Court confirmed a lower judicial instance's ruling that found Denmark's Christmas Tree Growers Association guilty of violating competition laws by giving its 1,000 members wholesale price guidelines in an attempt to stop them undercutting each other.

In February, the association was fined 200,000 kroner by the Copenhagen City Court.

The ruling was appealed to the Eastern High Court, which doubled the fine, saying the association had acted intentionally, especially since the competition authority had warned the association twice, urging it to stop giving wholesale price guidelines.

"We regret the ruling because it says that we have violated the competition rules and that has never been our intent," association chairman Henrik Nissen said in a statement.

The association was charged with price rigging in December 2007, following a yearlong investigation.

Denmark is Europe's leading exporter of Christmas trees. Danish farmers fell about 9 million fir trees every year. About 85 percent are sold abroad.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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