The Competition Authority (AdC) has accused the Affidea, Lifefocus and GS24 (Lifeplus group) groups of forming a cartel to organize prices and participation in public tenders for teleradiology services to Portuguese hospitals.
The services in question are provided by companies to entities of the National Health Service (SNS), following public procurement procedures, the AdC finding the existence of a concerted practice, jointly defining the companies which submitted winning bids in public procurement procedures for the provision of teleradiology services.
The use of teleradiology makes it possible to carry out diagnostic examinations without the physical presence of a radiologist or a neuroradiologist, being particularly relevant for health establishments without teams of specialists in radiology or neuroradiology, making it possible to respond to the needs and to help in the interpretation of complex diagnoses .
The AdC's investigation, which began in September 2021, found that these three companies involved in the cartel, along with two other companies (with a final sanction decision already in place), disclosed prices to each other. that they would put out to tender in the future, to ensure that the best proposal would be from the company defined by them, and they agreed that the others would be discarded due to the submission of proposals that do not comply with the criteria of the preliminary call for tenders.
"The contacts established have enabled the companies involved in the cartel to share the national market for the provision of teleradiology services among themselves following public procurement procedures", indicates the AdC, noting that, on the other hand , the incriminated companies implemented, together, “strategies tending to a general increase in prices” on the market in question.
In the published notice, the regulator informs that it has concluded the process beforehand regarding two other companies, already with a final sanction decision, for having decided to collaborate, which admitted its participation in the cartel and abdicated the legal dispute, having been the subject of the application of sanctions, corresponding to final decisions of condemnation.
With regard to the Affidea Group, the Lifefocus Group and the GS24, the AdC recalls that the respective accusation, by the adoption of a note of illegality, does not determine the final result of the investigation and that, at this stage of the process, companies have the opportunity to exercise their right to be heard and defended.
VP // JNM