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AFCA starts a sector inquiry into electric vehicle charging sector in Austria

The Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) has launched a sector inquiry into the electric mobility market, including the expertise of the E-Control. The AFCA may conduct a sector inquiry where circumstances lead the Authority to suspect that competition in a specific sector of the economy is restricted or distorted. Specifically, the AFCA intends to examine the public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EV) in Austria and assess it from the perspective of competition. The AFCA has also received complaints from market participants.

The Austrian Federal Government has committed itself in its climate and energy strategy to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 7.2. million tonnes or 31% by 2030 compared with 2016. Since some 46% of total greenhouse gas emissions are due to road transport, and around half of this to cars, this target can only be reached if the number of petrol and diesel cars is reduced accordingly. There is a trend towards electric vehicles at the moment, but the biggest challenge in transitioning from petrol to electric cars is to build up an efficient and safe charging infrastructure across the whole country and to increase grid capacity.

Approach used in the sector inquiry

The sector inquiry will be based on interviews with market participants, on studies, relevant publications and in-depth discussions with stakeholders such as companies, interest groups, institutions and authorities (especially with the E-Control).

It will provide an overview of the starting point and currently available EV charging infrastructure, sum up the legal basis, give a definition of the market, identify significant market participants and analyse the current situation with regard to competition. It will also look into major restrictions on competition and make recommendations to promote competition. From the initial transformation process onwards, these will work towards providing people with consumer-friendly and reasonably priced charging facilities in the future.

The sector inquiry will also consider the developments in some selected neighbouring countries, and compare them with those in Austria. The German Bundeskartellamt is currently also conducting an inquiry into the EV charging sector. The British Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its market study into electric vehicle charging in July.

More competition means more supply and better quality

Studies have shown that a certain degree of competition may improve supply and result in a higher quality of products and services. For this reason, the AFCA wishes to unearth (potential) restrictions or distortions of competition and increase competition in the market.

Aims of the sector inquiry

For electric mobility to work in Austria, it is essential to build a comprehensive charging network, one that chargepoint operators provide and that consumers are willing to take up. The AFCA is conducting this sector inquiry to point out potential competition issues in relation to the EV charging sector and thereby help it to put the required infrastructure in Austria in place.

Fair and diverse competition will make electric charging more attractive to customers, as it will make it more transparent and more readily available, it will mean more options and lower prices, and consequently accelerate the transition of road traffic to low carbon mobility.

Since businesses are still starting out in this area, it should be ensured that innovative business models can flourish while simultaneously counteracting the possible development of local or national monopolies. This would cause lock-in effects in the medium term, hamper innovation and quality development, lead to lower productivity, and ultimately a loss of welfare. The AFCA will therefore also delve deeper into the matter of structural framework conditions and government interventions that are needed to unlock competition in the field of EV charging.

The results of the sector inquiry will be published in a final report.


Contact: wettbewerb[at]bwb.gv.at