The “Servei Català de la Salut” (or Catsalut), the Catalan regional public body for healthcare services, has filed a claim for €526 million against two manufacturers of adult nappies, and their subsidiaries in Spain, for fixing prices.
This is the first competition follow-on claim filed by a public body in Spain after a sanction imposed by the competition watchdog (“CNMC”), ratified later by the Spanish central High Court (“Audiencia Nacional”) and the Supreme Court.
If successful, this claim will open the door for other regional health services to file complaints.
For 18 years (1996-2014), eight companies and the Spanish Federation of Health Technology Companies (Fenin) formed a cartel to fix the selling prices of incontinence pads for non-hospitalised patients, which are bought in pharmacies and financed by the National Health Service (“Seguridad Social”)
Interestingly, this health problem affects 2.5 million people in Spain and is the largest budget item for medical devices in the health system.
Catsalut is claiming €526 million compensation against Essity Spain, Essity Group Holding, Laboratorios Hartmann and Paul Hartmann España, a cartel of companies that fixed high prices.
As revealed by the CNMC and later confirmed by the courts, the cartelists constituted a “Working Group” on adult nappies and within the Fenin, including commercial companies such as Arbora & Ausonia (succeeded by Procter & Gamble España), Laboratorios Indas, SCA Hygiene Products, Laboratorios Hartmann, Ontex ID, Barna Import Médica, Textil Planas Oliveras and Algodones del Bages.
According to the CNMC, they fixed the selling prices of adult nappies marketed through pharmacies from December 1996 until January 2014. The market share of this cartel was 96%. The courts concluded through their agreement that they “artificially increased the selling price of adult nappies or urinary incontinence pads.