NMa Fines 10 Fluid Concrete Production Companies for Cartel Agreements
The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has imposed fines amounting to EUR 6 million on 10 fluid concrete production companies in the provinces of Zuid-Holland and Utrecht. These undertakings exchanged information amongst themselves about proposed price increases for fluid concrete in the period from 1998 up to and including 2002. The fines per company range from EUR 82,000 to EUR 873,000.
The parties involved informed each other annually during meetings and/or by letter of the changes to the price of fluid concrete which they each proposed making in the next year. On the basis of this information, the companies then determined their prices. This is a very grave infringement of the Competition Act because every undertaking is required to determine its own prices on the basis of its own costs. Where undertakings exchange price information, competition between these undertakings is restricted considerably. Anti-competitive agreements are to the disadvantage of buyers and are an infringement of the prohibition on cartels.
Fluid concrete is a mixture which consists mainly of cement, water, sand and gravel. This raw material is used both for the construction of housing and utilities, and for road construction. Approximately 180 fluid concrete companies are active in the Netherlands.
The decisions imposing the fines were taken on the basis of the report which NMa drew up following an investigation in February 2004 and the opinions of the undertakings on these decisions. NMa adjourned this case following investigations in the concrete sector, which emerged after NMa and the Cabinet had called on undertakings to come clean.[JRE1] The special guidelines for the setting of fines for the concrete sector were also applied to the undertakings which have now been fined to allow undertakings in the concrete sector in the broad sense to come clean. The undertakings involved may file an administrative appeal with NMa or a judicial appeal directly with the Court of Rotterdam.