The Danish Competition Council has issued fines to four sole proprietorships for having entered into agreements on prices and customer sharing in the framework of a consultancy concept. The companies have acknowledged the violations and accepted the fines.
Under the consultancy concept, the four sole proprietorships were all partnerships advising and selling consulting services against payment of commission to the developer of the concept. The consultancy concept covers courses and training within personal planning and efficiency, management of meetings, stress treatment and executive training.
Under the consultancy concept, the companies had agreed on mutual prices and that they were not allowed to sell to those customers which the other companies had listed as their customers.
The Competition Council found that this was an unlawful cartel agreement concerning prices and customer sharing. The sole proprietorships have acknowledged having violated the prohibition against agreements restricting competition under the Danish Competition Act.
The cartel agreement’s fine level
The duration of the violations has varied, the shortest period being four years and four months and the longest period being seven years and ten months.
The sole proprietorships have accepted fines of a total of DKK 10,000 - 90,000. When fixing the fines, the Competition Council attached importance to the duration and gravity of the violations. The violations are characterised as serious or very serious. The Competition Council has also attached importance to the companies' turnover and that they have contributed to clarifying the matter. The fines may as a maximum amount to 10 % of the company’s turnover the preceding financial year.
Important case in relation to the composition of cooperation between companies
The case is another example of the importance of including the competition rules when establishing cooperation between independent companies. This applies when the companies cooperate under the same concept as in this case but also when companies use each other as sub-suppliers or cooperate as a consortium. So far, we have seen a number of examples within the building contractor and craftsman sectors. The present case is a rarer example of the same framework applying to the consultancy services industry or other services.