On September 30, 2019, the FCA sanctioned the French National Architects Council (Ordre des architectes) for fixing prices in the context of public works contracts.
From 2013, the French National Architects Council circulated to their members a formula for calculating fee rates. This practice was initiated in reaction to low rates applied by certain architects on public work contracts.
To ensure compliance with the pricing methodology, the French National Architects Council imposed coercive measures on public procurement authorities and architects. For instance, the Council initiated pre-disciplinary and disciplinary proceedings against architects not complying with the imposed fee rate. The French National Architects Council also alerted public procurement authorities that undervalued bids would be associated with increased litigation risks, as well as technical risks. The FCA considered that this price policy discouraged certain local authorities from selecting architects with lower fees. Several local authorities also called into question contracts already awarded or in course of negotiations.
The FCA rejected the National Architects Council’s claim that the conduct at stake fell within the exclusive competence of the administrative jurisdiction. The FCA held that it was competent to assess the anti-competitive nature of practices carried out by a professional order, including prerogatives of public-authority powers, since such practices pursued a manifestly anticompetitive goal. The FCA concluded that these practices prevented architects from freely setting the price of their services and therefore constituted an infringement of competition by object. It imposed a fine of €1.5m on the French National Architects Council and a penalty of €1 on each architect and architectural firm that participated in the conduct.