Spain's competition regulator CNC has imposed penalties totalling €16 million on 12 asphalt producers after exposing a price fixing cartel in the Spanish provinces of Leon and Burgos and in the Basque region.
CNC said it had uncovered a "very serious breach" of the country's Competition Act, claiming that the producers operated as a cartel between 2007 and 2009, sharing out the market for hot bituminous mixes and related products for public projects in the areas affected.
Anti-competitive activity included establishing production quotas and basic rates between participants together with the exchange of sensitive information.
The largest penalties were levied against Campezo, which had three subsidiaries that were individually fined. The total financial penalty for the parent company was €11.6 million. Fellow asphalt producers Orsa and Copris also received substantial penalties totalling €2.1 million and €250,465 each.
The regulator said that it had taken into consideration as an aggravating factor the fact that, for these three companies, the case represented repeated offences under the Competition Act.
Campezo, Orsa and Copris had already previously been sanctioned by the Basque Country Competition Tribunal in 2008 in relation to a price-fixing agreement that took place during 2001 and 2002.
CNC said it had increased the penalties imposed on these three companies by 15% as a result. The fines came after the regulator completed its formal investigation against the companies - a process which began in December, 2009, following raids on various headquarters.
"The CNC Council took the view that it was dealing with a sharing out of the market for the provision of asphalt for projects awarded to construction companies by public authorities, and that it was highly likely that this sharing extended to other geographical areas, although there was only proof in relation to the areas under investigation," the regulator said.