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Three swimming pool and water feature maintenance companies have reportedly been issued with S$419,000 of fine by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) for engaging in bid-rigging conduct.

The three firms are including CU Water Services, Crystalene Product (S) and Crystal Clear Contractor.

CCCS said on Monday (14 December) that the companies had colluded with one another and rigged about 521 tenders from 220 clients, which including hotels and condominiums, between 2008 and 2017, as reported by TODAY.

The commission noted that it was prompted to investigate the three firms in September 2017 after it was alerted about the alleged bid-rigging conduct in July 2017.

Its probe revealed that the bid-rigging had occurred separately between CU Water and Crystalene, and between CU Water and Crystal Clear.

CCCS said a “systematic pattern” was found to be involved in the bid-rigging, in which one company would request a support quotation from another company.

The requesting party would often specify a price for the supporting party to quote, and the supporting party will then provide a quote that it believes to be higher than the quote of the requesting party.

TODAY’s report also highlighted the email screenshots indicated the companies have shared details of their clients and asked for supporting quotations with one another.

“CCCS found that the bid-rigging conduct between the parties resulted in there being no competitive pressure between the parties to submit their best offers to potential customers,” said the commission.

“The conduct also created the false impression that the bids submitted by the parties were the outcome of a competitive tender process when it was not. As a result, potential customers were not able to obtain competitive offers that could best meet their requirements,” it added.

According to findings set out in the infringement decision issued by CCCS, CU Water was fined S$308,680, Crystalene was fined S$41,541 and Crystal Clear was fined S$68,793.

It was noted that Crystalene and Crystal Clear have applied for leniency after CCCS conducted unannounced inspections at their business premises, but CU Water did not.

CCCS’ leniency programme offers lenient treatment to businesses that are part of a cartel agreement or concerted practice when they come forward with information about their cartel activities and give cooperation to the investigation.

Businesses can be granted with total immunity from this programme or be granted a reduction of up to either all or half of the financial penalties.

CCCS noted that both companies, Crystalene and Crystal Clear, were given 10 per cent of leniency discounts as a result of their admissions to the infringement conduct and their cooperation with the investigations under the Fast Track Procedure.

Meanwhile, director of the legal division at CCCS Winnie Ching said that affected customers who want to get compensation from the companies for having paid non-competitive rates would have to take legal action.

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