Wednesday, May 18

Competition proposes the direct veto as contractors for companies sanctioned for participating in cartels

The president of the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC), Cani Fernández, announced this Thursday in Congress that the body is going to launch a public consultation to decide whether to directly impose the veto on the prohibition of contracting with the Administration companies that participate in cartels.

The construction employers participate in the public entity that must rule on the veto to hire ACS or Sacyr

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During an appearance before the Committee on Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, Fernández pointed out that in the body they are now in the “internal debate” about “imposing ourselves directly instead of passing it to the contract board”, an advisory body in which For example, the large construction companies are represented, and that a report must be submitted to the Ministry of Finance so that the prohibition of vetoing a specific contractor becomes effective.

The CNMC activated the hiring veto for the first time three years ago by dismantling the so-called “AVE cartel”, but it has never been applied because the final decision depends on the ministry and the sanctions are usually appealed in court. According to Fernández, this veto “is not an additional sanction to the fine”, but rather “a protection system so that the Administration does not contract with companies that have already shown that they have imposed a higher competitive price”.

With this veto “we protect both the Administration and the taxpayer.” “Now that is a credible threat, much more so than the fines.” And it can be a powerful tool “with all the public procurement that is going to come” through European funds.

During his appearance, Fernández explained that in 2021 the body sanctioned collusive inquiries to companies that would have invoiced 6,200 million euros in the markets affected by their infractions.

Last year there was an “exponential” growth in concentration operations, with more than 100, surpassing the previous record of 2017, “solving the simplest ones very quickly”, resolving in an average period of 18 days, including operations more complex.

Regarding the rise in energy prices, it has been a “general phenomenon in all EU countries”, especially “spectacular” in the case of electricity, after the war in Ukraine. Fernández has pointed out that wholesale electricity prices in Spain are not “on the highest scale” compared to other countries. “We are even exporting to France because prices are much lower and because we have enough capacity.” Still, the situation is “obviously very worrying.” The body is providing its “vision” to the different ministries and “joining efforts to try to control this situation.”

The president of the CNMC has indicated that it is “necessary” to recover the electricity price scheme that establishes the consumption time slots when the energy price scenario normalizes. “The turbulence in the energy market in recent months has diluted the effect of the time slots, which has prevented us from appreciating their effect at the moment.” But this price scenario “will pass” and by then it will have to be recovered “to promote optimal use of infrastructures in a context of electrification of the economy”.

Barriers to mining

Fernández has charged against the “disproportionate” barriers in the regulation in Spain in matters such as mining. A critical issue for the ecological transition, especially after the pandemic and now, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Spain, “which has so many minerals in rare materials, is not extracting enough”, because “our mining law dates from 1963” and “does not take into account the new regional design of our country”.

This regulation “is planned so that the one who grants the permits and determines how it should be done is the central State”, while the autonomous community “is going to suffer all the consequences” and “only benefits in the number of jobs” that create exploitation.