The Competition Appeals Board: Trade agreement concerning camping pass was illegal

21 April 2018

On 13 April 2018, the Competition Appeals Board affirmed the Competition Council’s decision concerning the Camping Council’s and DK-CAMP’s violation of the Competition Act by having concluded an agreement concerning camping passes. The Competition Council has reported the matter to the police.

The Competition Act was violated within the framework of the Camping Council, which organises approx. 90 % of all camping sites in Denmark. The camping sites in question were represented by the Camping Council via DK-CAMP, which is a voluntary chain.

It was one of the conditions of the Camping Council that the organised camping sites were to demand presentation of a valid CKE camping pass to gain access to the site. Campers not presenting a valid CKE camping pass were to be offered to buy the Camping Council’s CKR camping pass at a fixed price of DKK 110.

The Dutch company ACSI Publishing BV (ACSI), which issues camping passes that may also be used as alternative ID when checking in at a camping site, complained about the arrangement. ACSI’s camping passes are accepted as ID on 8,800 sites in Europe, including on Danish sites which are not connected to the Camping Council.

On several occasions, the Camping Council had informed its members that the ACSI camping pass was not a valid pass, neither on sites in Denmark nor in Europe. The Camping Council also decided that competing camping passes were not to be accepted, including the ACSI camping pass. Only purchase or presentation of a valid CKE pass would give campers access to sites connected to the Camping Council.

The Competition Council’s decision: Illegal price-fixing agreement and exclusion of competitor

According to the decision, the violation of the prohibition against agreements restricting competition involved two issues:

  • Decision on identical prices of CKE passes for the purpose of restricting price competition significantly between the camping sites horizontally.
  • Decision not to accept other camping passes than the CKE pass, including specifically to reject ACSI passes for the purpose of excluding providers of competing camping passes from the market.

Eventually, these measures resulted in higher prices to the detriment of the consumers.

Consequently, the Camping Council and DK-CAMP violated the prohibition against agreements restricting competition under section 6 of the Competition Act.

The Competition Appeals Board affirms the decision

DK-CAMP brought the case before the Competition Appeals Board claiming cancellation of the Competition Council’s decision. DK-CAMP claimed that it was not the correct addressee as DK-CAMP did not have a role in the Camping Council’s CKE camping pass agreement, and that DK-CAMP only had limited influence on the decision concerning price fixing and exclusion.

The Competition Appeals Board did not allow for these arguments and affirmed the Competition Council’s decision. The Competition Appeals Board attached importance to the fact that DK-CAMP represented a large part of the Camping Council’s sites and was a member of the Council’s board of representatives. Furthermore, DK-CAMP was represented by a permanent member of the Camping Council’s board of directors acting as chairman when the violation took place. The Competition Appeals Board found that DK-CAMP safeguarded its own and its members’ interests in the Camping Council and could directly influence the decision in the Council. DK-CAMP was therefore the proper addressee of the decision.

The Competition Council has decided to refer the case to the Public Prosecutor for Serious Economic and International Crime for a criminal evaluation.