ELECTRICITY

Watchdog rules out fines for power companies involved in auction

CNMC publishes conclusions after finding no evidence of manipulation or collusion

After nearly a month-long investigation, Spain’s antitrust watchdog, the CNMC, has decided that no action will be taken against 36 power companies or a number of financial intermediaries, after the results of a wholesale electricity auction held last month threatened to see consumer bills rise by 11 percent at the start of the year.

The price rise was quashed by the intervention of the government, who decreed that the electricity rates would instead go up by 2.3 percent at the start of 2014.

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The CNMC’s final report into the incident has decided that none of the players involved will face fines, given that there is no evidence that manipulation or price fixing took place at the auction. The conclusion has been reached despite the fact that Energy Ministry José Manuel Soria described the result of the auction as “coarse manipulation,” pointing the finger of blame at the power companies involved. In a press release, the CNMC has said, however, that it will “continue investigating,” saving some face for the minister.

As it made clear in its emergency report from December 20, which declared null and void the results of the auction the day before, the CNMC still maintains that there were “atypical circumstances that impeded the auction taking place in an environment with sufficient competitive pressure.” However, it has now ruled that there was no manipulation or collusion to artificially inflate prices. Given the lack of evidence of non-competitive practices, the CNMC is unable to propose fines or open an investigation. In fact, not once during the 75-page report are the words “manipulation” or “collusion” mentioned.