CADE convicts a cartel in the anaesthesiology service market in the state of Rio Grande do Sul
The Tribunal of the Administrative Council for Economic Defence (CADE) found one cooperative and three clinics guilty of economic crimes in the anaesthesiology service market in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The fines imposed amount to BRL 3.5 million.
According to the investigation, the clinics Clínica de Anestesiologia (Can), Anestesiologistas Reunidos de Caxias do Sul (AR) and Sane Nordeste Serviço de Anestesiologia (Sane) coordinated to fix prices and conditions for the provision of anaesthesiology procedures to hospitals and health insurance companies. Meanwhile, the cooperative Carene operated promoting and coordinating collective bargaining cases, influencing the behaviour of its associates and favouring the cartel.
“By negotiating on behalf of medical societies, Carene mitigated competition in the affected relevant market, by standardizing commercial variables of three companies relevant for providing anaesthesiology medical services, which indeed operated in an almost exactly the same way, diminishing options for hospitals and health insurance companies,” pointed out the case’s rapporteur, Commissioner Paula Azevedo, in her vote.
During the course of the proceedings, the defendants signed a Cease and Desist Agreement (TCC) with CADE, in 2017. Nonetheless, the conditions established in the agreement were not fully fulfilled by the signatories, which is the reason the investigations were resumed by the agency. According to the case’s rapporteur, the breach was caused by the affiliation of the clinics to the cooperative after having signed the TCCs.
“The affiliation occurred as a response to the administrative proceedings and it does not appear to result from a legitimate cooperation decision. This situation may be seen by CADE as a continuity of the practice and may cause the opening of new investigations by this Council,” stated Ms. Azevedo.
The administrative proceedings were launched after the Federal Prosecution Services of the state of Rio Grande do Sul reported the case. The anticompetitive practices started in 2002 and persisted to the present day.
In addition to paying fines, CADE determined that the clinics and the cooperative must restrain from promoting collective bargaining aimed at setting prices or conditions of anaesthesiology services. The defendants must also stop promoting, supporting or encouraging boycott movements, collective stoppage of assistance to beneficiaries of health insurance plan and mass credential revocation.
Finally, the Tribunal determined the defendants must make a summary of CADE’s decision available at their websites, in a visible and readable manner, for a minimum of 90 days. The defendants must also disclose the content of the decision to any associated parties and clients, in a manner of their own choosing, proving their compliance to CADE’s decision within 15 days from the date of release of the decision.