Portugal competition watchdog fines banks over concerted practices
By Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves
LISBON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - After a long-running investigation, Portugal's competition authority AdC said on Monday it fined 14 banks a total of 225 million euros ($248.6 million)for concerted practices of exchanging sensitive commercial information on credit products.
The fines were imposed on Portugal's biggest bank, CGD, as well as Millennium BCP, BBVA, BIC, BPI, BES, BANIF, Barclays, Caixa de Credito Agricola, Montepio, Santander, Deutsche Bank and UCI.
The banks could not immediately be reached for comment.
"AdC is not aware of similar convictions in other member states of the European Union and (it) is therefore an unprecedented condemnation," it said.
In a statement, AdC said that for more than a decade, between 2002 and 2013, the banks exchanged sensitive information on the supply of retail banking credit products, including mortgages, consumer and corporate loans.
According to AdC, each bank knew in detail "the characteristics of the offer of other banks, which discouraged the target banks from offering better conditions to customers by eliminating competitive pressure".
AdC said the scheme had a significant impact on customers.
"By distorting the rules of competition through unlawful coordination that allowed them (banks) to reduce the risk and uncertainty about the performance of their direct competitors, the behaviour of the banks harmed competition, directly affecting consumers," AdC said.
The fine imposed was based on the "severity and duration of the participation in the infringement by each bank", AdC added.
The investigation was launched in December 2012. AdC searched 25 sites of 15 infringing banks.
($1 = 0.9052 euros)
(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Dan Grebler)