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Horizontal agreements in the framework of Campingraadet

31. May 2017

The Danish Competition Council has confirmed that two decisions made by the Danish umbrella organization “Campingrådet”, on the subject of 1) price fixing in relation to the sale of Camping Key Europe cards (CKE Camping card) from 446 of the Danish campsites; and 2) that the campsites in question shall only accept CKE as a valid camping card, have as their object to restrict competition on the camping card market.

Furthermore the Danish Competition Council has confirmed that the association of Danish campsites, DK-CAMP, has played an important role in relation to the decisions about price fixing and the exclusion of competing camping cards.

The facts of the case

A camping card is an alternative identity document (the size of a credit card) used by consumers (campers) when checking in at campsites instead of handing over a passport or another identity card at the reception. A camping card may also include other benefits such as discounts and/or a liability insurance that covers the legal liability for damages caused to third parties during a stay at a campsite.

Campingrådet is a Danish umbrella organization composed of 12 associations representing campsite owners, campsite user organisations and other organisations, respectively.

Campingrådet organizes almost 90 percent of the campsites in Denmark. The campsites in question are represented in Campingrådet either via DK-CAMP or DCU, via the board of representatives or the board of directors. Furthermore, the campsites are subject to a collaboration agreement with Campingrådet (“The Agreement”). The Agreement covers, i.a. the terms specified by Campingrådet as regards “the camping card system”. As follows, the campsites are obliged to sell the CKE camping card and shall comply with the decisions of Campingrådet as to the CKE camping card. The CKE camping card is sold via the website of Campingrådet as well and Campingrådet carries out random inspections at campsites in order to ensure that campsites comply with the terms of The Agreement.

Thus, campsite users who wish to gain access to one of the 446 Danish campsites must either possess a valid CKE camping card or buy a CKE camping card at the campsite for a fixed price (110 kr.) set by Campingrådet. Furthermore, as part of The Agreement between the campsites and Campingrådet the campsites shall not grant access to campsite users presenting other competing camping cards than the CKE camping card. Under these circumstances almost 90 per cent of the Danish campsites are inaccessible to campsite users unless they possess a valid CKE card or buy one at the campsite in question.

DK-CAMP is an association of 300 independent campsite owners. DK-CAMP is also a member of Campingrådet and has - due to DK-CAMP’s position as chairman of the board for 13 years - played an important role in relation to the decisions about price fixing and exclusion of competing camping cards such as ACSI Club ID.

ACSI Publishing BV (ACSI) is a Dutch undertaking offering general information about camping and camping accommodation package holidays in Europe. In addition, ACSI offers a camping card: the ACSI Club ID. Similar to the CKE camping card ACSI Club ID may be used as an alternative identity card (during check-in) and includes liability insurance. ACSI Club ID is accepted at app. 8800 campsites all over Europe including the approx. 54 Danish campsites that are not part of The Agreement with Campingrådet.

Campingrådet has confirmed that it has in fact made a decision about price fixing and a decision in relation to the campsites as to only to accept the CKE as a valid camping card in order for the campsite users to stay at the campsites in question. Furthermore, Campingrådet has pointed out directly to campsites that the ACSI Club ID is not a valid camping card in Denmark or any other place within the EU.

Revenue derived from sales of CKE camping cards contributes to the financing of the operation of Campingrådet. Thus, Campingrådet has an economic interest in selling the CKE camping card from the respective campsites (at a fixed high price) and to make sure that only the CKE camping card is accepted at the campsites.

Findings by the Competition Council

The Competition Council has found that the decisions in question constitute horizontal agreements between campsites in the framework of Campingrådet. This is due to the fact that Campingrådet - among others - consist of DK-CAMP (representing 300 independent, Danish campsite owners) and DCU who owns 23 campsites in Denmark. In addition 3 independent campsite owners are members of the board of representatives and two of the campsites mentioned are also members of the board of directors. Furthermore, the Agreement with the 446 Danish campsites allows Campingrådet to carry out random inspections at campsites to ensure that the campsites comply with the terms of The Agreement. Campingrådet has also pointed out that the obligation for the campsites to sell CKE camping cards and thereby contributing to the financing of the operation of Campingrådet is part of and has to be considered a kind of membership fee paid indirectly to Campingrådet via the respective associations of the campsites. Lastly, Campingrådet is selling CKE camping cards as is the question of the 446 campsites organized by Campingrådet.

The Competition Council finds that the decision in relation to price fixing has as its object to restrict competition on the camping card market between Danish campsites in relation to the sale of CKE Camping card as the decision works as a horizontal price fixing agreement.

Furthermore, the Competition Council finds that the decision to only accept the CKE camping card, and especially to not accept the ACSI Club ID, has as its object to restrict competition on the camping card market as the decision works as a direct horizontal exclusion of other competing camping cards such as ACSI Club ID and limits the ability of campsite owners to determine which camping card they want to accept.

The Competition Council has issued an injunction stating that Campingrådet shall bring the infringement to an end and that DK-CAMP shall bring its participation in the decisions to an end. Furthermore, the injunction states that Campingrådet and DK-CAMP shall refrain from repeating the infringements through any agreement, decision of association of undertakings or concerted practise having the same or equivalent object or effect, and that Campingrådet and DK-CAMP shall notify their members about the decision from the Competition Council.