AdC fines the Portuguese Driving Schools Association (APEC)

Press release 14/2017
 
AdC fines the Portuguese Driving Schools Association (APEC)
 
 
Autoridade da Concorrência (AdC) fined the Portuguese Driving Schools Association (APEC) and its president on the total amount of € 413 776,71 for fixing a minimum price on driving licenses. The alleged conduct harmed competition in the market of driving schools in the Greater Lisbon and Setúbal areas.
 
The fixing of minimum prices started on 28 September 2016 and was to be applied by about 170 driving schools in the area where the association operates.
 
The President of the association was also found to have committed an infringement for having known about the practice and for taking no action to prevent it or put an end to it.
 
The total number of candidates for driving test, in the Lisbon and Setúbal districts, was about 37.000, according to last available information disclosed by IMT (Institute for Mobility and Transport), concerning 2014.
 
Following a complaint, on 17th January 2017, the AdC carried out dawn raids related to this case and obtained the evidence that substantiates the prohibition decision.
 
The Statement of Objections was adopted on 27th July 2017, and the addressees exercised their rights of defence, by written submissions on 12th August 2017.
 
To calculate the amount of the fines, the AdC considered the criteria established by article 69 of the Portuguese Competition Act, the Guidelines on the method for setting fines, as well as the associated driving schools´ turnovers, with regard to the Association, and the annual income derived from its role in the Association, in the case of its president.
 
The decision closes the investigation initiated on 7th December 2016.
 
Decisions and recommendations by business associations are likely to infringe competition law in so far as they may have an influence on the autonomy of its members in determining their commercial policy. Each company must have total autonomy in such matters for the market to be competitive.
 
Decisions by business associations such as price recommendations prevent members from setting more competitive prices. This, in turn, reinforces entry barriers and deprives the consumer of a wider choice and of the ability to negotiate in the acquisition of goods and services for the best price.
 
The infringement of competition rules not only reduces consumer welfare, but also weakens the companies´ competitiveness, undermining the economy as a whole.
 
In November 2016, the AdC published the Guide for Associations of Undertakings – With competition, everybody wins, to inform business associations on decisions and behaviours to be avoided to ensure compliance with competition rules. The guide is available online, in Portuguese, at www.concorrencia.pt.
 
This decision is subject to appeal to the Competition Court.  
   28 September 2017