The AFCA was informed via its anonymous whistleblowing system of the distribution agreements that the company Fronius concluded with its distribution partners. The distribution agreements included illegal rules about market divisions with absolute territorial protection, price fixing and the prohibition of competition within the scope of the welding technology distribution system.
The infringements related to the B2B trade of welding products in Austria.
Fronius under leniency
The AFCA launched investigations in August 2020. Fronius applied for leniency in July 2021 and has since cooperated continuously and fully with the AFCA.
The AFCA applied to the Cartel Court to have an appropriate fine imposed. Settlement talks are currently being conducted in order to possibly set a concrete fine with the involvement of the Federal Cartel Prosecutor at a later stage.
The company Fronius International GmbH
Fronius International GmbH is an Austrian company headquartered in Pettenbach in Upper Austria. The company is engaged in the fields of welding technology, solar energy and battery charging technology on a global scale.
Further investigations into other companies are currently ongoing. The AFCA will shortly be filing additional applications for fines with the Cartel Court.
Fines for cartels
The Federal Cartel Act prohibits any behaviour that prevents or distorts competition. This covers price fixing agreements or the division of markets or territories. At the AFCA’s request, the Cartel Court may impose fines of up to 10% of an entity’s total turnover generated in the preceding business year if that entity is found to have breached the rules banning cartels. Fines are determined on the basis of the gravity and duration of the breach, the degree of fault, and the economic strength and cooperation of the company concerned.
Information reported via the whistleblowing system can make a significant contribution to exposing and preventing antitrust violations. More details can be found here.