The European Commission has fined providers of international removal services 32.7m Euros for violating the EC Treaty’s ban on cartels
The European Commission has fined providers of international removal services 32.7m Euros for violating the EC Treaty’s ban on cartels (Article 81).
The companies penalised include Allied Arthur Pierre, Compas, Coppens, Gosselin, Interdean, Mozer, Putters, Team Relocations, Transworld and Ziegler.
According to the Commission the cartel operated for almost nineteen years (from October 1984 to September 2003). Cartel members fixed prices, presented bogus quotes to clients and compensated each other for lost bids.
Allied Arthur Pierre's fine was reduced by 50% because it cooperated in the investigation under the Commission's 2002 Leniency Notice.
“The Commission discovered this cartel on its own initiative, demonstrating that the Commission has independent means to detect cartels and is using them successfully.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "Clients of international removal companies have been cheated for almost two decades. Fortunately, the Commission discovered this cartel on its own initiative, demonstrating that the Commission has independent means to detect cartels and is using them successfully."
The Commission started an investigation at its own initiative with surprise inspections in September 2003 in Belgium.
After the inspections, Allied Arthur Pierre submitted a leniency application under the 2002 Leniency Notice and provided the Commission with evidence of ‘significant added value.’
The cartel covered international 'door-to-door' removals to and from Belgium. The companies agreed on prices, attributed removal contracts by way of bid rigging in the form of bogus quotes called 'cover quotes' and benefited from a system of financial compensation for lost bids, called 'commissions'. These commissions were a hidden element of the final price that the consumer had to pay.
From the mid 1980s to the beginning of the 1990s the cartel operated on the basis of written price fixing agreements. In parallel, arrangements on 'commissions' and 'cover quotes' took place. Cartel members invoiced each other the lost bid commissions by way of bills. They also cooperated in order to submit bogus quotes that made clients falsely believe that they had a choice based on competition.