Competition – press release

CMA confirms fine as it completes eye surgeons investigation

The CMA has today issued an infringement decision following its competition investigation into Consultant Eye Surgeons Partnership (CESP) Ltd.

The decision imposes a fine on CESP Limited, a membership organisation of private consultant ophthalmologists, of £500,000. CESP Limited has previously admitted breaching competition law and agreed to pay a fine. The fine has been reduced to £382,500 in recognition of efficiencies for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) resulting from the streamlined administrative procedure following settlement and CESP Limited’s continued co-operation as well as the adoption by CESP Limited’s Board of a comprehensive competition law compliance programme.

Ophthalmologists (eye surgeons) are specialists in medical and surgical eye procedures. CESP Limited was formed to represent the interests of 37 limited liability partnerships (LLPs) and their 200 consultant members based across the UK. It provides its members with a number of services including access to CESP Limited negotiated contracts with Private Medical Insurers. Each LLP has a representative on CESP Limited’s Board.

CESP Limited admitted to a number of competition law infringements during the period September 2008 to May 2015, which include:

  • Recommending that its members refuse to accept lower fees offered by an insurer, and that they charge insured patients higher self-pay fees.
  • Circulating amongst its members detailed price lists for ophthalmic procedures such as cataract surgery to be used with insurers. These collectively set prices did not pass on lower local costs (such as cheaper hospital fees) and made it harder for insurers and patients to obtain lower prices.
  • Facilitating the sharing of consultants’ future pricing and business intentions such as whether to sign up to a private hospital group’s package price, which enabled members to align their responses.

The CMA welcomes the adoption by CESP Limited’s board of a comprehensive compliance programme which is a positive step in ensuring that CESP Limited and its members avoid breaking competition law in the future and set a good example for other organisations in the medical professions.

Ann Pope, CMA Senior Director of Antitrust Enforcement, said:

Today’s decision demonstrates the CMA’s willingness to pursue anti-competitive activity across a wide range of markets, including regulated and specialist sectors.

Over the next few months we will work with businesses in this sector to help ensure they understand what they need to do to comply with competition law.

We welcome CESP Limited’s continued co-operation with the CMA’s investigation and the adoption by CESP Limited’s Board of a comprehensive compliance programme, which has resulted in a further reduction in its fine.

Notes for editors

  1. The non-confidential decision will be published later this month following the redaction of any commercially sensitive information.
  2. The CMA imposed a penalty of £500,000 on CESP Limited and applied a discount of 10% for CESP Limited adopting a compliance programme and a settlement discount of 15%, resulting in a penalty payable of £382,500.
  3. The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law. From 1 April 2014 it took over the functions of the Competition Commission and the competition and certain consumer functions of the Office of Fair Trading, as amended by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.
  4. Further information is on the investigation case page.
  5. For more information see our homepage or follow us on Twitter @CMAgovuk, Flickr and LinkedIn. Sign up to our email alerts to receive updates on Competition Act 1998 and cartels cases.
  6. Enquiries should be directed to Kasia Reardon (kasia.reardon@cma.gsi.gov.uk, 020 3738 6901).