CMA imposes £1.2m in fines for price-fixing in private eyecareChristian Fernsby ▼ | July 1, 2020
The CMA has found that a private hospital group and 7 consultant ophthalmologists broke competition law by taking part in illegal price fixing.
They have all admitted that they agreed to fix fees for initial private consultations for self-pay patients at £200 and will now face fines totalling more than £1.2 million.
The arrangement between Spire and the consultants, who all operated out of a Spire hospital in the north of England, continued for almost 2 years. It was first initiated following a dinner organised by that hospital’s management and attended by 5 of the 7 ophthalmologists, during which the topic of fees was raised.
After the dinner, a Spire employee at the hospital sent an email to all 7 consultants to suggest that the agreed price for initial consultations for self-pay patients be set at £200 going forward.
The ophthalmologists confirmed they would charge this fee, with 4 of them raising their prices from £180 to £200. The remaining 3 were already charging £200 and continued to charge this amount. Spire then liaised with its customer service team to facilitate the arrangement.
The CMA has discounted each of the fines by 20% to reflect that they all admitted to the illegal arrangement and agreed to cooperate with the CMA, thereby shortening the length of its investigation.
One consultant was not fined as they brought the illegal activity to the CMA’s attention and fully cooperated with its investigation.
The final total penalties payable are set out as the following: £1,200,000 for Spire Healthcare Limited and Spire Healthcare Group plc; the consultants received fines of: £2,978, £1,186, £2,312, £2,193, £3,859, £642.
The arrangement was found to have taken place from at least 29 August 2017 to 3 July 2019. In the case of one consultant, the arrangement was up to 28 June 2018, when they stopped consulting at the Hospital. ■