A PYMNTS Company

Belgium’s BCA Condemns Fire Protection Cartel for Bid Rigging

 |  July 8, 2024
The Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) has issued a decisive condemnation against ANSUL, SOMATI FIE, and SICLI, three major players in the fire protection sector, for engaging in bid rigging over a period exceeding seven years. This malpractice primarily pertained to the sale, hire and maintenance of fire extinguishers and hose reels.

The BCA’s investigation revealed that these companies distorted competition in the fire protection services market through bid rigging, violating both Belgian and European competition laws. The implicated companies have acknowledged their misconduct and accepted the settlement terms proposed by the BCA’s Investigation and Prosecution Service.

BCA Prosecutor General Damien Gerard highlighted the gravity of the situation, stating, “The prosecution of bid rigging practices is a top priority for the BCA. These are among the most serious infringements of the competition rules. In the present case, the practices are particularly regrettable in view of their duration and the essential nature of the products in question for ensuring public safety, as well as the identity of the victims, which include schools, municipalities, assistance centers, social housing and public transport companies. What is positive is that the companies involved have recognized the seriousness of the facts and the ANSUL/SOMATI FIE group has taken the initiative of proposing a system of compensation for the victims.”

The cartel’s operation involved ANSUL, SOMATI FIE, and SICLI dividing public procurement contracts among themselves. This was achieved by refraining from bidding against each other or by submitting intentionally high bids, ensuring the predetermined company would win the contract.

In response to these violations, the BCA imposed a fine of €2.2 million on the SICLI fire protection group. Due to their cooperation and being the first to report the malpractice under the leniency program, the ANSUL/SOMATI FIE group was granted immunity from fines. SICLI’s cooperation also resulted in a 50% reduction in their fine. Additionally, the BCA acknowledged the ANSUL/SOMATI FIE group’s commitment to compensating affected customers under predefined terms and conditions.

Six individuals involved in the scheme applied for and were granted immunity from prosecution.

Source: Belgian Competition