On 2 April 2008, the Competition Council, which had received a complaint from a consumers association, condemned seven doctors’ unions for concerted practices between their members in order to raise the price of medical consultations.
These practices occurred between the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2005 and the Competition Council fined the concerned unions a total amount of € 814 000.
The Council noted that the trade unions circulated instructions in order to encourage “sector 1” specialists (i.e: specialists subject to government price control as opposed to “sector 2” specialists who are not subject to such a control) to increase their fees by improperly using the so-called “exceptional exceeding” procedure (i.e: a procedure allowing sector 1 specialists, in particular and justified circumstances, to charge fees exceeding the price caps imposed by the State).
The “exceptional exceeding” procedure, normally has to be used with “tact and temperance”. According to the Competition Council, “sector 1” specialists have been able to compensate the lack of revaluation of the price caps fixed by the State Sickness Insurance Fund.
The Council considered that the circulation by a medical union of collective instructions recommending doctors to resort to the “exceptional exceeding” procedure with the aim of increasing the fees is a price collusion. These practices harmed the national health system, the excessive fees to be borne by the patients adding up to € 180 million over the period.
Source: Decision of the Competition Council No 08-D-06 of April 2, 08