NMa Receives Almost 400 Voluntary Notifications from Construction Companies
Up until 1 May 2004, the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) received almost 400 notifications from companies in the construction industry, which voluntarily notified NMa of their cartel practices. All the large construction companies gave notification, as did many companies in the small and medium-sized enterprise sector.
On the basis of this material, NMa can form a good impression of what has taken place in the industry. In the coming weeks, NMa will analyse the large amount of information submitted.
In the last week prior to 1 May, a large number of construction companies notified NMa. The notifications received related at least to the civil engineering, road-building and hydraulic engineering sectors, civil and utility construction, the installation sector and various subsectors allied to the construction industry. Some companies are active (through subsidiaries) in numerous subsectors and have submitted more than one notification. The number of companies referred to as participants in cartel agreements in each notification varies from a few companies to tens of companies.
Minister Brinkhorst of Economic Affairs appealed to construction companies to notify NMa voluntarily before 1 May 2004 of practices which contravene the Competition Act. The Director-General of NMa, Mr Kalbfleisch, appealed to the construction industry to do so in January 2004 and repeated his appeal in April.
Notifications and leniency
NMa regards these voluntary notifications by construction companies as applications for leniency. NMa will investigate whether the notifications received thus far satisfy the criteria applicable to applications for leniency.
In accordance with NMa's leniency programme, companies may be granted a waiver or a reduction in the fine ("leniency") if they provide NMa with information of their own accord on cartels in which they are or were involved. A condition for this is that the companies voluntarily notify NMa's Leniency Office and that they provide valuable information. The reduction in the fine depends on the moment at which notification is given, whether NMa has already started an investigation into the cartel and the extent to which the information the company discloses provides proof of the existence of the cartel. NMa will notify the companies involved of the reduction in the fine during the investigation.
On the basis of the notifications received, NMa will commence new investigations into the construction sector. NMa will also draw on the material where possible for investigations which have already commenced. If NMa, after conducting its investigation, concludes that the Competition Act has been infringed, a report will be drawn up on all the companies involved in the cartel. Companies which have been involved in a proven cartel, but which have not voluntarily notified NMa, will be fined relatively more harshly than companies which have submitted an application for leniency.
Since 2002, NMa has carried out various investigations into the construction sector. In 2003, NMa imposed 26 fines on construction companies in six cartel cases. In addition, NMa is currently investigating various cartel cases. The scale of NMa's investigation into the construction sector has now been increased. After the analysis of the material, NMa will provide insight into the period required to complete the various investigations that arise.
Companies may also apply for leniency after 1 May 2004. Of course, this also applies to companies in sectors other than the construction industry.