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NMa suspects manufacturers of prefab concrete floors of cartel agreements

The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) suspects nine manufacturers of prefab concrete floors of engaging in cartel agreements in the period from early 1998 to late 2003. This would amount to a continuation of cartel practices following the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry's final report in 2002.

The NMa has drawn up a statement of objections against the companies concerned on the basis of a reasonable suspicion of an infringement of the Competition Act. In this phase of proceedings, therefore, the names of the companies involved will not be made public. The companies may now submit a response. Following this, the NMa will establish whether or not an infringement was committed, and, if so, whether or not a fine is appropriate.

According to the statement of objections the companies concerned took part in periodic meetings with a view to allocating sales volumes and coordinating prices for various types of concrete floor elements. Such agreements restrict competition. They are harmful to consumers and commissioners, and prohibited under competition legislation. Competitive pressure helps create market dynamics and insecurities, which play a particularly important role in triggering cost reductions and innovation. As a result, consumers benefit through lower prices, new products and improved service.

The NMa investigation was partly based on evidence provided by the companies concerned. These took part in the NMa's leniency programme. The leniency regime encourages companies to notify the NMa of cartels voluntarily. The NMa may reduce fines or grant fine immunity to companies that provide valuable information on cartels of their own accord and on an individual basis.

The companies concerned produce and distribute prefab concrete floors, including various types of concrete floor elements. Particularly, these products are used by construction companies and real estate investors for the construction of offices, business accommodation and houses. The companies concerned represent a substantial part of the Dutch market for prefab concrete floors.

In 2005 and 2006 the NMa imposed fines on construction companies in the civil engineering and infrastructure sector [GWW], the installation engineering sector, the sector of manufacturers of concrete paving stones, prefab concrete piles and prefab concrete floor elements, the cable and pipeline construction sector and the horticultural services sector.

Undertakings suspecting an infringement of the Competition Act other than the ones already established within the construction sector, may report this to the NMa and submit an application for leniency. On the basis of an application for leniency, undertakings may obtain immunity from fining or a fine reduction ('leniency'), if they themselves inform the NMa of cartels in which they participate or have participated. It is conditional that undertakings report with the Leniency Office on an individual basis and pass on valuable information. With a view to this, the NMa has drawn up guidelines. The Leniency Office may be contacted via 070 330 1710 (telephone), 070 330 1700 (fax) or email: clementie [at] acm [punt] nl (clementie[at]acm[dot]nl).