AXA PPP healthcare has welcomed the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)'s fine of £500,000 for the Consultant Eye Surgeons Partnership (CESP) Limited.
The fine will be reduced to £425,000 if CESP continues to co-operate with the CMA, having admitted infringing competition law.
CESP represented 37 limited liability partnerships and their 200 consultant members across the UK and provides services including access to CESP negotiated contracts with Private medical insurers.
CESP recommended members refuse to accept lower fees offered by insurers, and that they charge insured patients higher self-pay fees.
CESP circulated among members detailed price lists to use with insurers, not passing on lower local costs such as cheaper hospital fees.
Future pricing and sharing business intentions such as whether to sign up to a private hospital group's package price were facilitated by CESP.
Fergus Craig, commercial director at AXA PPP healthcare, said: "We welcome the CMA's decision to fine the Consultant Eye Surgeons Partnership (CESP) £500,000 for infringing competition law by its anti-competitive exchange of information and membership pricing agreements for the period from September 2008 to now."
He added: "The ruling is good for patient protection and welcome vindication of the precept that professional membership organisations are not above the law.
"We further welcome CESP's acknowledgement of its wrongdoing and commitment to putting into place a comprehensive competition law compliance programme to ensure that it does not infringe competition law again."
Ann Pope, senior director of antitrust enforcement at the CMA, said: "This membership organisation of private eye surgeons has admitted to anti-competitive conduct including agreeing prices, recommending that members refuse to accept lower fees from an insurer and facilitating the sharing of confidential business intentions, including future pricing intentions, between its members.
"As a result of this activity, the incentives for its members to compete on price were restricted, making it harder for insurers and patients to obtain lower fees.
"This is the first time formal competition law enforcement action has been taken against medical professionals in the UK.
"This case demonstrates the CMA's commitment to taking action in specialised and regulated sectors including the professions and makes it clear that membership organisations and their members are not outside the scope of competition law or its penalties.
"We welcome CESP Limited's co-operation with the CMA's investigation and its commitment to introducing a compliance programme and we hope that other professional membership organisations will take note of this case and take steps to ensure they operate in a way that does not infringe competition law."
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