The National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC) once again hit the mark, after sanctioning 19 industrial assembly and maintenance companies for a cartel created to increase the cost of services mainly provided to companies in the energy and petrochemical sector. In total, the amount reached 54.26 million euros and in addition, the regulator has sanctioned eight managers with 280,500 euros. According to the official statement, the file was sent to the State Public Procurement Advisory Board so that the participating companies "are subject to a ban on contracting with the public sector, except in the case of companies that requested to qualify for the Clemency Program ".
That puts under the magnifying glass one of the priorities of the sanctioning action of the CNMC: the fight against cartels. Thus, since 2014, more than 30 cartels have been dismantled, - he says that does not include frames that are not officially considered cartels, but that act as such -, and the amount of sanctions has been multiplied by six , according to data extracted from The annual reports. Different sectors have starred in fines, from the dairy industry, parcel delivery companies, to diaper manufacturers. The highest fine recorded in the last five years went to a cartel of 21 manufacturers and distributors of automobile brands. The fine amounted to 130 million, according to the resolution in 2015.
Only so far this year, the body headed by José María Marín Quemada has already sanctioned 15 companies (Cobra, Elecnor, Siemens, Semi, Inabensa, Alstom, Cymi, Isolux, Electren, Comsa, Indra, Neopul, Telice , Eym and Citracc) for forming several cartels for the distribution of public rail infrastructure competitions of ADIF . The amount of the penalty imposed amounts to 118 million euros.
She was not the only one. Another resolution imposed by the Commission went to 33 textbook publishers for the creation of a mutual collaboration mechanism that, although the CNMC does not define it as a cartel, did describe it as such in the file. The value imposed was more than 30 million. To the list is added the recent investigation that the Commission opened on September 30 for possible anticompetitive practices to a network of ATMs to certain financial institutions, but which has not yet received an economic sanction.
The amount already exceeds the sanctions imposed in 2018, the year in which a set of four posters were detected that in total gathered 115 million, according to the memory of the last year.
For Rafael Baena, managing partner of the competition law department of Ashurst, he explains that, during the last five years the CNMC has maintained an intense activity of persecution and sanction of posters, "with special attention to public procurement markets, and with the application of new tools such as sanctions for managers. "
Record year in cartels
2015 meant and represents a record of sanctions by the CNMC. It was the year in which the highest number of posters (14) and amount in competition fines were recorded, "of the more than 535 million euros in penalties imposed this year, the vast majority, plus 492 million corresponded to poster penalties" , Baena recalled and added that this practice corresponds to the most serious infractions , according to the Law on the Defense of Competition.
Since the posters are difficult to detect, the agency introduced the Clemency Program in 2007, which allows the first company to report being exempt from 100% of the sanction. The same happens if a second company takes part in the program and provides new evidence, its fine can be reduced up to 50%. "Clemency applications have allowed the end of 29 posters since January 2010," according to the Commission. Thus, the agency said that, thanks to the exemptions and reductions, the sanctions imposed have been reduced by more than 140 million euros.
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