The Competition Tribunal ruled in favor of the National Economic Prosecutor’s Office, against 74 of 84 physicians of the city of Punta Arenas, who were accused of signing a price fixing agreement for the provision of different specialized medical services. With this objective, the physicians had formed a society, named “AM Patagonia S.A.” (Ampatagonia) and established a list of fees.
The Tribunal considered that the agreement was capable of harming free competition, at least in the short run, in some specialized medical services –offered by the 74 sanctioned physicians-, since the list of fees increased the price that users of the private health system faced for said medical services.
In the case of the 10 physicians who were acquitted, the agreement was not considered harmful to free competition. Considering the characteristics of the market, the agreement was not ideal to hinder or restrict free competition.
The 74 physicians received fines of 15 Monthly Tributary Units each (around US$ 1,100), except the agreement instigator, who was fined with 30 Monthly Tributary Units (around US$ 2,200). When establishing the fines, the Tribunal considered, on the one hand, the economic benefits obtained because of the infraction (higher prices charged because of the agreement). On the other hand, the Tribunal considered that (i) the defendants took actions to reduce or limit the effects of the infraction, (ii) the defendants’ association had other, licit, objectives as well, and (iii) the accused physicians had been cautious, though ill-advised, about the legality of their actions. The defendants Mr. Bustos and Mr. Margoni were acquitted, since their role as instigators of the agreement was not proved.