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Investigation of the plumbing and heating services

30. november 2005

Journal nr. 1120-0201-0332/SEK/KB The Council meeting 30th November 2005

The Danish Competition Authority (DCA) has made and published an investigation of the competitive conduct of the plumbing and heating services.

The investigation was initiated when a newspaper in the beginning of August 2005 brought an article referring to alleged practices of bid rigging in these services.

Thus the focus of the investigation has been to uncover whether the plumbing and heating services are – or have been – involved in cartel activities similar to the cartel activities of the electric wiring services uncovered in the late 90’es.

The publication of the investigation includes a list of about 700 plumbing contracts found in a so-called “black book”, which came into the possession of the DCA during investigations.

A black book contains pages for each individual "competitor", on which his “credits and debits” are currently brought up to date. On the basis of a black book it is possible to find the exact contracts that have been rigged.

The black books in the possession of the DCA are similar to those found during the investigation of the electric wiring cartel, and they cover a sequence of years up to late 1998, which was the exact time when the electric wiring cartel was disclosed.

The DCA has found no verifiable examples of bid rigging after 1998, which means that the cases fall under the statute of limitation of 5 years. Therefore the DCA decided to discontinue investigations.

However, when it comes to possible claims for damages, the period of limitation is 20 years. Consequently, the DCA decided to publish the results of the investigation, as they can be of interest to those contractors, who invited bids for plumbing and heating works during the 90’es.