The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has adopted 21 cartel decisions on administrative appeal relating to the Housing & Utility sector, the Cable and Pipeline sector and Horticultural Services sector. The NMa thus brings the number of completed appeal cases relevant to the construction industry up to a total of 93. The decisions on appeal follow the imposition of NMa fines on more than a thousand construction companies during “fast-lane” and regular sanction procedures. As for now, the NMa is still handling about 20 administrative appeal cases relating to the construction industry.
Fines are upheld in 15 out of the 21 appeal cases now completed. In 6 instances the fine was lowered, due to the NMa granting a number of appeals. Among other things, it was found that turnover figures of the benchmark year providing the fine base were not representative when compared to other years in the infringement period.
In 2004, 2005 and 2006, the NMa drew up a series of Statements of Objections with regard to infringements of cartel legislation in the Housing and Utility sector, the Cable and Pipeline sector and the Horticultural Services sector. Meeting in various configurations, prior to tendering for procurement contracts, the companies (or company divisions) concerned aimed to share markets and rig bids. Such practices constitute a serious infringement of the Competition Act. Price-fixing and the anti-competitive exchange of information have a harmful effect on buyers by restricting or to a large extent ruling out competition. As a result, prices cannot be established under ‘normal’ competitive processes and consumers will be put at a disadvantage. Market dynamics and market insecurity particularly, reinforced by competitive pressure exerted by other market parties, will trigger companies to introduce cost-saving changes and to innovate.
Regular and “fast-lane” procedure
The decisions on administrative appeal now adopted have regard to both regular as well as “fast-lane” procedures. The companies concerned were given the option of participating in either the so-called “fast-lane” sanctions procedure or regular sanctions procedure. “Fast-lane” procedures were specially designed by the NMa in order to make it possible for construction companies to “come clean” collectively within a relatively short period of time.
Source: Press Release NMa, 08-02-2008 at www.nmanet.nl.