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NMa Suspects Cleaning Companies of Price Agreements

Following an investigation, the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has drawn up a report on Ondernemersorganisatie Schoonmaak- en Bedrijfsdiensten (OSB) [Organisation of Businesses in the Cleaning and Business Services Industry] and a number of its large members for giving advice on prices and coordinating price increases.

NMa's research showed that OSB offered its members, for instance, a model for calculating hourly rates. OSB also explicitly advised its members to increase their tariffs annually and even sometimes in the interim on the basis of a percentage price increase set by OSB.

OSB used the advice on prices as a means of coordinating the price increases of its members. As a result, price competition was excluded to a large extent. A number of OSB's members also infringed the Competition Act because they were directly involved in agreeing and coordinating price increases. Furthermore, the majority of these companies actually adopted the price recommendations.

The advice on price increases related, in any event, to the period from January 1998 up to the end of 2000. In this period, price increases of 2.9%, 3.7%, 5.4% and 2.5% respectively were recommended.

The members of OSB represent 60 to 70 percent of the total market turnover of the cleaning branch. The total turnover of the branch in 2000 amounted to approximately EUR 2.4 billion.

The report contains a reasonable suspicion that an infringement has been committed. The parties involved have now been given the opportunity to respond to the report. After this, NMa will take a final decision on whether an infringement has been committed and, if so, whether a fine or some other sanction will be imposed.