The Andalusian Council for the Defense of Competition (Consejo de Defensa de la Competencia de Andalucía) has imposed two fines on José Manuel Pascual Pascual, S.A. (“Hospitales Pascual”) amounting to €5.33 million for abusing its dominant position in the market for the provision of health services between February 2014 and June 2017. It is one of the largest fines imposed by a regional competition authority in Spain to date.
The investigation, which began in September 2016 following a complaint submitted by the Andalusian Health Service (Servicio Andaluz de Salud, “SAS”), found proven that the company had breached Article 2 of the Spanish Law for the Defense of Competition as a result of two separate conducts: on the one hand, the Council concluded that Hospitales Pascual had charged abusive prices for the services rendered to the SAS in several hospitals of Cádiz and Huelva for three and a half years; on the other hand, it was evidenced that the company tried to impose unjustified conditions in the negotiations of new contracts to prevent other competitors from entering the market of specialized healthcare services, such as the obligation to arrange in a single package all Pascual hospitals.
This way, not only did the company reinforce its position of dominance in the market for the provision of specialized emergency healthcare services, but also improved it in the markets of specialized complementary medical services and other auxiliary services, such as onco-hematology or psychiatric services.
According to the Council’s decision, these conducts shaped a strategy aimed at making the SAS dependant on the company’s services, obstructing competition and, ultimately, affecting the users of the Andalusian public healthcare services. As a result of these infringements, the authority has imposed two sanctions of €2.65 million each.
The Council also estimated that the illicit benefit obtained as a consequence of both infractions between February 2014 and June 2016 would have reached €164.1 million, which implies that this amount would have been even greater if we take into account the fact that the infringement lasted until June 2017.
The decision may be subject to appeal before Andalusia’s High Court of Justice (Tribunal Superior de Justicia) within 2 months from its notification.
Authors: Alexandre Picón and Marta Simón