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CNMC in Spain dismantles cartel organized by 19 industrial companies

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Christian Fernsby ▼ | October 9, 2019
Spain refinery
Europe   Spain refinery

The CNMC has dismantled and sanctioned the cartel organized by 19 industrial assembly and maintenance companies, which was created to increase the cost of services mainly provided to companies in the energy and petrochemical sector.

Topics: Spain cartel

The penalties for all companies are 54.26 million euros and, in the case of the directors involved, a total of 280,500 euros.

In addition, the CNMC has informed the Public Procurement Advisory Board of the State, under the Ministry of Finance, the sanctioning file so that the companies participating in the cartel are subject to a prohibition to contract with the public sector, except in the case of the companies that requested to take part in the Clemency Program of the CNMC.

Also, the Commission will monitor companies so that they do not repeat this illegal behavior again.

Industrial assembly and maintenance requires complex and specific safety, industrial and environmental quality standards.

Therefore, large companies in the energy and petrochemical sector award these services to specialized companies for the maintenance of facilities such as warehouses, tanks in power plants, airports, etc.

The hiring is done through private tenders.

The sanctioned companies created a network to distribute customers and tenders, exchange sensitive information with their competitors, make coverage offers, set compensation and prices.

Such actions are considered constitutive of a cartel; This is prohibited conduct , in accordance with articles 1 of Law 15/2007 on the Defense of Competition and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

From January 18, 2001 until inspections were carried out in July 2017 , the cartel distributed at least 746 tenders.

These private competitions were carried out by about twenty clients, among which are mainly companies in the energy and petrochemical sector.

At least 18 meetings have been accredited to which the companies of national scope attended or that operated in several zones to coordinate the cartel.

They differentiated the projects in which they were interested in making offers from which, due to their size, they were left “ for local companies ”, coordinated by a national company.

The coordinating company was in charge of organizing the presentation of the offers with the local companies, whose actions were complementary, but necessary, to make effective the anti-competitive agreements.

The "modus operandi" of the plot was evolving due to its long duration.

In a first stage, the company designated to be the winner of the work gave its prices to be raised by the others through offers of coverage up to a certain percentage.

At a later stage, the companies exchanged versions of “Excel” files , which were filling each one with the prices and the offers of coverage.

Subsequently, they established their own codes, such as numbers or acronyms for the participating companies, indicating with a “yes” or with a “no”, if the companies participated in a specific tender.

The contact mechanisms between the participants of the plot were also evolving over 17 years to make it difficult to detect, from faxes, telephone contacts, to WhatsApp or emails.

The detection of the cartel has been possible thanks to the complaint made by the Navec company, which by informing the CNMC of the existence of the cartel, through the Clemency Program , has benefited from the exemption in the payment of the fine imposed.

However, one of its executives, also sanctioned, has not benefited from the planned reductions by not collaborating with the CNMC.

On the other hand, after the inspections carried out by the CNMC, another of the companies participating in the cartel, Enwesa, submitted a request to reduce the amount of the fine and provided additional evidence, so that the fine imposed has been reduced in 50%.

Finally, the CNMC has submitted this resolution to the State Public Procurement Advisory Board , under the Ministry of Finance, as some companies may be affected by a prohibition to contract with the public sector.


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