The Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) launched a sector inquiry into the food industry on 25 October 2022. The current situation of rising prices, supply chain bottlenecks and increasing inflation made a more detailed analysis of the market from a competition perspective necessary. The AFCA has previously also launched (see here) or completed (see here) sector inquiries into other core markets.
Objective of the online survey
The AFCA started questioning selected suppliers to the Austrian food retail industry today, with the objective of identifying potential competition issues. In this context, the Authority will also look into proportionality and suppliers’ experience of negotiating with the food retail industry.
The online survey will be sent to more than 1,500 companies that supply the four largest Austrian food retailers in Austria and Germany and that exceeded a defined sales threshold for deliveries of food products (excluding alcoholic beverages) in 2021 or 2022.
AFCA sector inquiry
The AFCA is responsible for conducting competition sector inquiries in Austria. It may launch a sector inquiry where circumstances lead it to suspect that competition in a specific sector of the economy is being restricted or distorted. A sector inquiry does not necessarily lead to proceedings before the Cartel Court being initiated. A general inquiry into a specific sector is primarily conducted to evaluate competition conditions in that specific sector. The AFCA is entitled to request information from companies during such a sector inquiry. These companies are then obliged to cooperate with the Authority, provided that they are based in Austria. The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO) has already informed its members from the food retail industry about the main areas covered by the inquiry.