Competition Council condemns Onet Company and Spid Group for concerted practices in the industrial cleaning sector

29 September 2008

Romain Ferla

On 11 June 2008, the Competition Council imposed fines amounting to a total of €1,680,000 against two companies for having exchanged price information regarding invitations to tender. The Competition Council stressed that Onet, a leading French industrial cleaning company, and Spid exchanged information amounting to anti-competitive bid-rigging.

The Office Public de HLM de Mayenne (the organisation which manages housing for lower income group tenants) launched a broad programme to clean common parts of buildings. Onet and Spid Group exchanged information relating to the prices and contents of the bids that they intended to submit to the Office Public de HLM de Mayenne.

Before submitting the invitation to tender, the companies met and agreed that Spid’s bid should be the best bid to each invitation to tender. As a result, the market was effectively awarded to Spid group.

The Competition Council held that the agreement increased the price of cleaning services, which consequently increased the rental costs of lower income tenants. Pursuant to Article L.464-2 of the French Commercial Code, the Council took into account that Onet and Spid Group did not challenge the objections made against them. In addition, the Competition Council accepted several original commitments made by Onet and Spid Group regarding new staff training about competition rules. This training involves the creation of a whistle blowing programme which allows employees to report any suspected infringement of competition rules. Employees will report their suspicions to a specially appointed antitrust compliance officer. This officer will have a duty to report suspected infringements to the management of the company. The management has a duty to keep the compliance officer’s files for at least five years.

The Competition Council considered that these commitments were satisfactory and therefore granted a 20% fine reduction.

Source: Decision of the Competition Council n°08-D-13 of June, 11, 08