I835 - ICA: fines totaling over 10 million euro against companies active in the supply of water meters due to an anti-competitive agreement


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According to the Authority, many tenders launched between 2011 and 2019 by various operators of the Integrated urban water management for the supply of meters for the legal measurement of cold water consumption for domestic or industrial use were rigged.

The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato has ascertained the existence of an anti-competitive agreement which affected a substantial number of tenders, specifically 161 lots, launched between 2011 and 2019 by various Integrated urban water management operators active in Italy, that - in the various forms permitted by the Code of Public Contracts - procure water meters for cold water for domestic or industrial use for the legal measurement of consumption.

For this reason, the Authority imposed fines for a total amount of over 10 million euro (10,408,951) on the companies G2 Misuratori S.r.l., Maddalena S.p.a., Itron Italia S.p.a., Sensus Italia S.r.l. a Socio Unico and WaterTech S.p.a., the main operators in the sector that were awarded over 90% of the lots registered in the period, and on the companies that control these last three companies, Itron Inc. Sensus, Metering Systems (LuxCo 3) and SàrlARAD Ltd. The figure corresponds to approximately one-fifth of the turnover generated by the tenders that are certainly altered.

The Authority relied on a detailed evidentiary framework, based on the inspection documentation acquired from the companies and third parties - from which it emerges a habit of consulting between the parties - and on an anonymous document arrived shortly after the opening of the investigation and comprising about seventy faxes mainly aimed at coordinating the tender conduct before the deadline for the submission of the bids and partly also at arranging meetings between the parties. The evidence was completed with the feedbacks provided by the detailed requests for information to a significant sample of contracting authorities, including those mentioned in the anonymous document, to the parties under investigation and to third parties. The sophisticated and well organized concertation was carried out using all the methods of contact offered by the available technology (fax, WhatsApp, Skype) as well as frequent informal meetings. The coordination of the participatory tender strategies includes indications of a minimum price or maximum discount for supporting tenderers or indications not to participate, even defining the motivation to be presented to the contracting authority.

According to the Authority, the agreement neutralized the competitive confrontation between the parties and irreparably compromised the physiological competitive game, which should have been established during the tender procedures, to the detriment of the contracting public administrations.

Rome, 17 February 2022