Spain's competition authority, the Comisión Nacional de la Competencia (CNC), has imposed fines totalling over €16 million on seven companies involved in the reinforced concrete and geotechnical tensioning industries which it accuses of acting as a cartel for at least 14 years.
The cartel was exposed after geotechnical engineer Dywidag, which develops post-tensioning, geotechnical and stay cable systems for the construction and mining industries, approached the regulator in April 2010 with an application for leniency.
Dywidag was hit with the largest fine of €5.2 million, but CNC agreed to waive payment under the leniency agreement.
The other companies involved were BBR Pretensados and techniques, which received a €2.6 million penalty, CTT Stronghold (€2.4 million), Freyssinet (€2.8 million), Mekano4 (€1.3 million), Prestressing Techniques & Auxiliary Services (€1.9 million) and VSL-Spam (€384,000).
CNC said the cartel violated the country's competition act by sharing out contracts and customers in the field of post-tensioned systems and geotechnical tensioning.
These are techniques and systems used in the civil engineering field - post-tensioning systems are ways of reinforcing concrete structures used in many types of buildings, while geotechnical tensioning systems are used to fix structures together and for soil stabilisation. Demand for such technology comes from large companies in the construction sector.
The cartel companies are accused of holding regular meetings to agree the distribution of potential contracts and to track sharing arrangements and quotas.