It appears that Apple is not the only company in the French Competition Authority’s (FCA) sights. Reports reveal that 40 to 50 FCA officials launched coordinated dawn raids last week on the offices of three of the world’s preeminent recruitment agencies, Adecco, Randstad and Manpower.
We understand that these three firms are significant players in the French employment market, collectively holding an estimated 59% share of the market for temporary placements. At this stage, neither the companies nor the FCA have released any details in relation to the raids, other than statements confirming that the investigation has occurred and that the companies are cooperating with the FCA to resolve any issues in a timely manner. It remains to be seen what the precise focus of the investigation will be but it will likely centre around allegations of price fixing and collusion.
This is not the first time these companies have been investigated by the FCA. In 2009, the recruiters* were fined a total of €94.4m for conspiring to fix prices in 2003 and 2004. In that case, the companies engaged in behaviour to limit competition between them and their largest clients. The fines imposed were reduced as the recruiters agreed to commitments to avoid such behaviour in the future and promote competition in the market. The latest investigation may indicate that these companies have breached the undertakings they previously gave to the FCA in 2009.
These raids (in conjunction with the recent raids on Apple’s French offices) appear to indicate an increased willingness by the FCA to take enforcement action against companies that are allegedly in breach of French competition law.
This is a timely reminder for companies that have subsidiaries, operations or offices in France to familiarise themselves with their competition law obligations and ensure that they remain compliant – failure to do so may lead to an early morning knock on the door from the FCA.
*The fines levied against Randstad related to Vedior, a company it had acquired in 2008. Fines were also levied against Adia, now owned by Adecco.