The Competition Council, which met in two sessions on July 7 and 28, to study and examine the referral relating to accountants, decided to impose a financial penalty of 3 million dirhams (MDH) on against the Order of Chartered Accountants (OEC).
A press release from the Council indicates that “after deliberations and in application of the provisions of article 39 of law 104-12 (relating to the freedom of prices and competition, editor’s note), the Council took decision n°80 /D/2022, by which it imposed a financial penalty of three million dirhams (3,000,000 DHS) against the Order of Chartered Accountants”.
This sanction was pronounced, because of the violation by the said Order, of the provisions of article 6 of the aforementioned law, which prohibits agreements, in any form and for any reason whatsoever, which have as their object or may have as effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition on a market, in particular when they tend to impede the formation of prices by the free play of the market by artificially favoring their rise or fall, to limit the access to the market or the free exercise of competition by other companies, specifies the Council.
Thus, and following the investigation of this referral, the Competition Council concluded that the Order of Chartered Accountants had resorted to anti-competitive practices which consist of the implementation by members of the Order an agreement relating to the setting and dissemination of an average minimum price that must not be less than 500 dirhams per hour excluding taxes, which has been made compulsory for all chartered accountants working on the national market of legal or contractual financial and accounting audit.
The OEC also intervened with certain public establishments to enforce this minimum price in the calls for tenders they concluded, adds the same source.
“These practices of the Ordre des Experts Comptables distort free competition on the relevant market and limit the access of companies, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to the market for accounting and financial audit services to competitive prices,” the Council points out.
These practices also consist of the insertion by the Order of Chartered Accountants in a certain number of its documents of anti-competitive provisions, by fixing a minimum price in a free market with competition, whereas the fixing of prices does not come under the missions entrusted by the legislator to the Order, as defined by law n°15-89 governing the profession of chartered accountant and establishing an order of chartered accountants.
In addition, the Competition Council enjoined in its decision cited above, the Order of Chartered Accountants to introduce the necessary amendments, in order to purge all its documents of anti-competitive provisions and this, within 60 days from the date of receipt of this decision. After this period, a daily penalty fixed at four thousand dirhams (4000 DHS) will be imposed on the Order of Chartered Accountants.