Competition & Antitrust, Austria updates

Ringing twice – not always the postman
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • November 30 2017

Following some busy years conducting dawn raids in various industries, the Federal Cartel Authority (FCA) recently published guidelines regarding such searches. Although the guidelines contain no big surprises, as they largely reflect the law and the FCA's earlier practice, there are some interesting points – particularly as some of the Austrian legal regime deviates from European law and practice.

Fixing the WhatsApp gap?
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • July 13 2017

At present, the Austrian merger control regime is based on a system of turnover thresholds. Following German legislation and anticipating possible new legislation by the European Union, the new Cartel Act introduces a consideration threshold for which, at least in Europe, there is no practical experience. Due to vague criteria in the law, it is expected that more transactions than envisioned by the legislature will be caught by the new regime or at least notified by careful parties and lawyers.

Deadline (narrowly) missed!
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • April 06 2017

Although implementation of the EU Cartel Damages Directive in Austria was somewhat delayed, the Council of Ministers recently approved the bill to amend the Cartel Act and the Competition Act. The law will significantly amend Austrian cartel law, primarily facilitating private enforcement of cartel damages for consumers and enterprises alike. While Austrian law has included some of these elements since 2013, the implementation of the directive goes far beyond those implemented.

Who has jurisdiction between EU Merger Regulation and national cartel law? Please wait!
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • December 15 2016

The Supreme Court recently considered whether a special concentration had to be assessed in accordance with the EU Merger Regulation or national cartel law. The Supreme Court ultimately submitted this question to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling. While an answer to this question is necessary, the interest in quick merger proceedings must also be considered.

Retailer settlement and amendments to Cartel Act
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • September 15 2016

After the Supreme Court imposed a record €30 million fine on grocery chain SPAR Österreichische Warenhandels-AG and its subsidiaries, a draft to amend the Cartel Act 2005 was circulated. In addition to implementing EU Directive 2014/104/EC, the draft amends existing limitation periods, reiterates the joint and several liability of cartel members and further promotes Austria's leniency programme regarding the fine procedure.

Media cooperation in radio market
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • April 21 2016

Triggered by a complaint from radio station Kronehit, the Federal Competition Authority (FCA) looked into the media cooperation practices between radio broadcasters and concert and festival organisers. The investigation led to a set of FCA guidelines for media cooperation which will address the prevalent inequality between Austrian public broadcaster radio stations and private radio stations as media partners of concert and festival organisers.

Overview (December 2015)
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • December 17 2015

The Cartel Act contains antitrust regulations on cartels, merger control and abuses of dominant market positions. It sets out the rules on what constitutes a cartel, the definition of vertical restrictions, joint dominance and mergers and establishes the conditions for when pre-merger control applies.

Use of spyware during dawn raids
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • July 02 2015

Following a dawn raid of the business premises of one of Austria's biggest food retailers, the company challenged the Cartel Court's order to conduct the raid and the Federal Cartel Authority's actions during the raid – in particular, due to the use of espionage software. The Supreme Administrative Court dismissed the applicant's appeal and ruled that the use of forensic software to access electronic data during a raid is unquestionably legal.

Forwarding agencies' cartel and its consequences
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • April 23 2015

The Higher Regional Court, acting as the Cartel Court, recently imposed a fine of approximately €17.5 million on 30 forwarding agencies for infringing European competition law by agreeing on tariffs regarding collective freight transport between 2002 and 2007. The Cartel Court's decision preceded significant discussions among competition law specialists and several other Austrian and EU decisions clarifying important questions of law.

New settlement policy
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • February 19 2015

Following criticisms of an apparent lack of information and transparency in Federal Competition Authority (FCA) settlement proceedings, the FCA has issued guidelines on its settlement policy, elaborating on its legal position and practice. While it is clear that settlements provide some legal certainty for undertakings, they must be treated with caution, as settlement decisions include a binding sentence of guilt.

Resale price maintenance
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • August 21 2014

In the course of recent investigations the Federal Competition Authority (FCA) has found prohibited agreements between suppliers and their respective distributors, primarily in the field of consumer prices. In the wake of these findings, the FCA published its final statement on vertical restrictions – particularly resale price maintenance. The statement serves as a guide to identifying and avoiding infringements of the cartel ban.

Publishing Cartel Court decisions and court settlement practices
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • May 22 2014

The Supreme Court recently ruled on the scope of the Cartel Court's obligation to publish its fine decisions and highlighted the importance of transparency as the main goal of Section 37 of the Cartel Act. In its decision, the court made clear that the purpose of Section 37 is to present market participants with clear information about cases so that they may evaluate damages claims.

Extension of search warrant after accidental discovery
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • March 27 2014

The Supreme Court (acting as the Higher Cartel Court) recently decided once again on the investigatory powers of the Federal Cartel Authority (FCA) with regard to house searches. The case focused on suspicions by the FCA of participation in anti-competitive agreements and/or concerted practices with regard to vertical price agreements between the applicants and retailers of daily consumer goods, among other things.

When could bidding consortia constitute illegal cartels?
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • January 23 2014

The Supreme Court (acting as the Higher Cartel Court) recently issued its decision in a case concerning a tender procedure organised by a large Austrian municipality that was subject to heated debate among practitioners. The court ruled that the consortia (if consortia at all) were so-called 'de minimis cartels' within the meaning of the Cartel Act, and therefore were in any case exempt from the cartel ban.

Warning: non-notification may become expensive
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • October 17 2013

The Supreme Court recently considered a case in which an acquiring entity failed to notify the Austrian Federal Cartel Authority (FCA) of a share increase in relation to a Hungarian entity. The case came to light following a subsequent share increase, of which it duly notified the FCA. The acquiring entity's actions were based on legal advice that later turned out to be erroneous.

Error in law cannot protect against competition fine
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • July 25 2013

The Supreme Court referred a question to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) regarding whether an error on the legality of actions based on advice from a specialist adviser or a decision by a national competition authority would be a viable defence against fines imposed on an undertaking for infringing Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The ECJ has now answered this question in the negative.

FCA issues guidelines on vertical restraints
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • July 18 2013

The Federal Cartel Authority (FCA) has published draft guidelines on vertical (pricing) restraints. The FCA described certain practices and commented on their respective illegality or legality with a view to preventing future infringements. While it remains to be seen how these guidelines will affect authority and industry practice, the FCA and national competition authorities are increasingly monitoring vertical relationships.

New rules of the game for leniency applicants
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • May 09 2013

The long-discussed changes to the Austrian competition laws have finally become effective. These concern, among other things, the leniency programme implemented in Austria in 2006. The amended Competition Act now makes it possible for undertakings to qualify for full immunity from fines on a leniency request even after the Federal Competition Authority has gained knowledge of the reported infringement.

Dominant undertakings must sometimes support competitors
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • January 31 2013

The Higher Cartel Court recently ruled on the obligation of dominant undertakings to contract with other market participants, including competitors, under specific circumstances. It held that they must be very careful to avoid discriminating against other undertakings by refusing to contract with them. The decision provides interesting clarifications on the applicability of the 'essential facilities' doctrine in such cases.

Court finds whistleblowers no guarantee for authority
Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
  • Austria
  • October 04 2012

The Cartel Court recently rejected a Federal Cartel Authority action to fine approximately 50 Austrian plumbers for alleged collusion in a tender procedure initiated by the City of Vienna housing agency in 2007. The court ruled that all activities of the defendants - regardless of whether they had actually infringed cartel law - were exempt from the cartel ban under the Austrian de minimis regime.

Current search