“What we verify is that 20 cents passed to the consumer”, Fernández explained at a seminar organized by the Association of Economic Journalists (Apie) in Santander. This task is accomplished through what CNMC calls a ‘high frequency indicator’ derived from direct information on fuel purchasing and sales data at 12,220 Spanish gas stations. CNMC found that about a hundred of the total gas stations surveyed did not offer discounts to consumers. In only two cases did they add 20 cents to their gross margin.. “In the vast majority of cases, we did not find that aid was absorbed by gas stations, in reality for many operators the margins were reduced due to high competition,” said the head of the highest competition authority. The purpose of the margin control mechanism is that the fuel stations that exceed the commercial margin at the end of the year and do not transfer it to the consumer are obliged to return the bonus.”
CNMC thinks that Fuel prices in Spain are lower than in other countries From a European and “counter-factual” perspective, “fuels would currently be 20 cents more expensive per liter” if the bonus had not been applied.
Fernández explained that the costs of refineries and large distribution companies have increased further since January and since the war in Ukraine. In the case of biofuels, the rise in grain prices had a direct impact. In the case of emissions rights, it increased rapidly (more than doubled), which affected the increase in the cost of petroleum products. According to data from CNMC, when it comes to large companies, trade margins have decreased due to the high level of competition in the industry.
On the balance of CNMC’s activities in 2021, Fernández highlighted the “significant increase in merger and concentration processes” between companies., which made up most of the agency’s audit activity. Specifically, 102 processes were reported last year, and 46 more processes were recorded this year, which showed an upward trend at the end of the year. CNMC’s mission is to ensure competition in these mergers and prevent abuse of market power, and the average resolution time for these merger cases was 18 days, “one of the lowest in Europe” according to the CNMC president.
Last year, the agency took seven sanctions against cartels, five of which involved the manipulation of public procurement.something that becomes the center of attention of the organism. Thus, a total of five disciplinary investigations were initiated in 2021 regarding bid rigging and are still at the investigation stage. Among them, the file on ICO loans was the result of an investigation into complaints received in a confidential mailbox. For Cani Fernández, auditing of public contracts is crucial at a time when the distribution of European Next Generation funds has to be undertaken.
CNMC assures “One of the CNMC’s priorities is the elimination of collusive cartels operating in public procurement.“This is one of the types of trade deals that has a more direct impact on the public treasury, which accounts for 20% of GDP,” said Fernández.
The biggest challenge today is dealing with the use of data matching algorithms, which is actually an illegal price control mechanism. The CNMC has created an Economic Intelligence Unit with ‘big data’-based analysis tools that monitors the public procurement platform to assess irregularities. Cani Fernández, head of CNMC, considers the use of big data analytics techniques to be “essential tools for running the business of defending competition.”
Regarding the liberalization of the railway, Fernández emphasized that prices on the Barcelona-Madrid corridor have been reduced by 25% and they tend to decrease on other routes as well. The competitor thought that the Spanish rail potential was very high and that digitization would allow the discovery of new transport services that integrate the train more effectively.