CESP Limited, a membership organisation of private consultant ophthalmologists, has been fined £382,500 for breaching competition law.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found the organisation guilty of a number of competition law infringements.
CESP Limited was formed to represent the interests of 37 limited liability partnerships (LLPs) and their 200 consultant members based across the UK. It provides its members with a number of services including access to CESP Limited negotiated contracts with private medical insurers. Each LLP has a representative on CESP Limited’s Board.
During the period September 2008 to May 2015, CESP Limited admitted to anti-competitive actions including:
– Recommending that its members refuse to accept lower fees offered by an insurer, and that they charge insured patients higher self-pay fees.
– Circulating amongst its members detailed price lists for ophthalmic procedures such as cataract surgery to be used with insurers. These collectively set prices did not pass on lower local costs (such as cheaper hospital fees) and made it harder for insurers and patients to obtain lower prices.
– Facilitating the sharing of consultants’ future pricing and business intentions such as whether to sign up to a private hospital group’s package price, which enabled members to align their responses.
The CMA welcomes the adoption by CESP Limited’s board of a comprehensive compliance programme which is a positive step in ensuring that CESP Limited and its members avoid breaking competition law in the future and set a good example for other organisations in the medical professions.
Ann Pope, CMA Senior Director of Antitrust Enforcement, said: “This decision demonstrates the CMA’s willingness to pursue anti-competitive activity across a wide range of markets, including regulated and specialist sectors.
“Over the next few month s we will work with businesses in this sector to help ensure they understand what they need to do to comply with competition law.
“We welcome CESP Limited’s continued co-operation with the CMA’s investigation and the adoption by CESP Limited’s Board of a comprehensive compliance programme, which has resulted in a further reduction in its fine.”
The CMA imposed a penalty of £500,000 on CESP Limited but applied a discount of 10% for CESP Limited adopting a compliance programme and a settlement discount of 15%, resulting in a penalty payable of £382,500.
The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law. From 1 April 2014 it took over the functions of the Competition Commission and the competition and certain consumer functions of the Office of Fair Trading.