The antitrust authorities have signalled their approval for cooperation between competitors during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. President of the Federal Cartel Office Andreas Mundt and EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager emphasise that the authorities are open to direct communication. According to Mundt, even after the crisis, cooperation might be necessary to overcome economic difficulties.
A recent Federal Court of Justice decision clarifies open questions relating to cartel damages and simplifies the presentation of claims by plaintiffs, as it will no longer be necessary to present and prove that a cartel agreement had an actual impact on an acquisition transaction under the requirements of Section 286 of the Code of Civil Procedure. It is to be expected that the number of cartel damage actions pending before the German courts will continue to increase.
The Federal Cartel Office (FCO) has raised no objections to the launch of 'Unamera', a digital trading platform for agricultural products. During the review, the FCO provided guidance on the competition law implications of digital platforms, specifically with regard to the obligations where shareholders are active in the same market as the platform's users, the market statistics published on these platforms and the risk of price fixing.
Under German law, a plaintiff does not only have to prove the unlawful behaviour of a liable party (ie, in the case of cartel damages, a competition law infringement such as a cartel) and any damage caused by this behaviour; the Act Against Restraints of Competition also requires a plaintiff to be "affected" by unlawful behaviour. However, the broad wording of the act could still be too restrictive in light of a recent European Court of Justice decision and will therefore have to be amended or reinterpreted.
The Federal Cartel Office has fined three companies and three persons a total of approximately €646 million. The companies agreed and exchanged certain supplements and surcharges for so-called 'quarto plates' in Germany for approximately 14 years. Companies and associations should review their practices with regard to price components (particularly surcharges) as this is not the first decision on this matter.