The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed a fine on two companies, Brimos and Agmi, for secretly concluding illegal price-fixing agreements involving four bids for contracts for the manufacturing of distance signs. As a result of these bid-rigging agreements, the Dutch national agency for signposting NBd (in Dutch: Nationale Bewegwijzeringsdienst) received fewer competitive offers for road and highway distance signs. As Brimos was the first company to notify ACM of the illegal agreements and to confess that it was involved in the cartel, Brimos does not have to pay the fine of 135,000 euros. Agmi notified ACM after that. Its fine has been reduced by 60%, and Agmi will thus pay 56,000 euros.
Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, explains: “It is important that, in tender processes, all bidders submit their bids independently of each other. That is the only way to ensure the tender process is fair. In this case, the NBd was misled, which may have led to higher prices for distance signs. We are pleased that these companies have come clean, and have reported their illegal agreements.”
What is this case about?
Municipalities, provinces, and the Dutch central government are responsible for the installation and maintenance of distance signs. The NBd is responsible for, among other duties, buying the signs (in particular road and highway distance signs as well as distance signs for bike routes). The NBd regularly invites businesses to submit bids for manufacturing and supplying such signs. For four of such contracts in 2020, these two companies had secretly contacted each other in advance to discuss the bids they would submit. They discussed which company should win which contract.
In 2021, Brimos contacted ACM and confessed that it had made illegal agreements with its competitor Agmi. During the investigation, Agmi also contacted ACM. Both companies cooperated with the investigation as well as with the follow-up steps. As part of that cooperation, they have acknowledged the violation. Therefore, ACM has lowered their fines.
Confess your involvement in a cartel and avoid a fine
Companies that make illegal agreements and want to come clean can confess their involvement and submit a leniency request. The first company that confesses its involvement in a cartel can avoid a fine entirely. Companies that are involved in the same cartel and confess their involvement later and subsequently cooperate will receive a reduced fine.
ACM and tender processes
ACM ensures that markets work well for people and businesses. Tender processes must take place in a fair manner. More information about what you should keep in mind when submitting bids or when setting up tender processes can be found on our site with information about tender processes (in Dutch).
ACM works together with PIANOo, the Dutch Public Procurement Expertise Centre, giving contracting authorities advice. PIANOo helps contracting authorities professionalize their procurement processes by giving advice, providing tools, and practical tips.
If you are not involved in a cartel, but you do have any indications that certain businesses distort competition? Please submit your tip-off to ACM.
- 20-07-2023 ACM’s fining decision regarding illegal bid-rigging involving traffic signs (in Dutch)
- Applying for leniency: confess your involvement in a cartel
- PIANOo, the Dutch Public Procurement Expertise Centre