On 18 January 2010, the French Competition Authority (the 'Authority') issued a decision fining four companies for anticompetitive practices in the context of procurement contracts relating to painting services for naval equipment and engineering structures.

The four companies were sanctioned for: (i) exchanging information on prices and (ii) submitting 'sham bids' aimed at giving the impression of a genuine competition. 

In the context of tendering procedures, the Authority considers that the value of the sales generated by the infringement is not relevant to set the fine, and that the basic amount of the fine shall be determined based on the gravity of the infringement, the economic harm caused thereby and the relevant circumstances.

As regards the gravity of the infringement, in the present case the Authority pointed out the fact that some of the companies participated in several tendering procedures each year and had leading positions on the market. As regards the importance of the economic harm, the Authority underlined the fact that the tenderers were deprived of the benefits of a genuine competition between the bidders. 

The Authority finally decreased the final amount of the fine for three of the four companies as they agreed to settle and gave several undertakings.  The Authority also considered the financial difficulties of one of the companies to lower its fine.

This decision is a good illustration of the method followed by the Authority to set the fines in the context of tendering procedures, and follows the provisions of its new draft antitrust fining guidelines published on 17 January 2011 (see Community Week issue 505).

To view Community Week, Issue 511; 4th March 2011 in full, Click here.

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