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AFCA files application to impose a fine for vertical agreements in the school bag market

On 6 April 2021 the Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) filed an application with the Cartel Court to fine a company for an infringement of Article 101 TFEU and § 1 para. 1 of the Austrian Cartel Act (KartG).

AFCA investigations

In 2019 and 2020, the AFCA conducted investigations against a manufacturer of school bags and backpacks, as well as some retailers, into alleged vertical price fixing.

The AFCA initiated official investigations after having received complaints from consumers. Finally, in January 2019, it conducted a dawn raid in Germany together with the German Bundeskartellamt.

The alleged anti-competitive conduct occurred during the period from January 2012 to January 2019, and until August 2016 in relation to online selling, and usually took the following form:

  • In the course of initiating a business relationship with retailers, the company demanded that the latter adhere to a “price stability policy” with a recommended retail price (RRP), which retailers usually accepted.
  • During the ongoing business relationship the company requested that retailers adhere to that RRP, for instance when they were informed by other retailers that this was not the case or found from their own (online) price monitoring activities that a specific retailer was selling backpacks below the RRP.
  • In addition, the possibility of selling the product online on retailers’ own websites or on third-party platforms was restricted in an inadmissible manner.

Leniency - Application for lower fine

During the dawn raid the company made an immediate application for leniency, subsequently cooperating fully with the AFCA to clarify the facts of the case.

Owing to the company’s full cooperation in the leniency programme, the AFCA applied to the Cartel Court for a reduced fine. The company has acknowledged the infringement.