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AFCA files application for a fine for market abuse in the automotive industry

Following an application by a car dealership and servicing garage, and subsequent antitrust proceedings, the Supreme Court sitting as the Supreme Cartel Court issued a decision with legal effect on 17 February 2021 (16 Ok 4/20d) , instructing the Austrian sole importer of new vehicles and original spare parts of the Peugeot marque to end its abuse of a dominant market position (as effected by several individual acts). The Federal Cartel Prosecutor and the AFCA joined these proceedings as official parties; the AFCA has now applied for the imposition of an appropriate fine with regard to these infringements.

The Austrian Federal Cartel Act (KartG) allows any undertaking that has a legal or economic interest in a decision to submit its own applications (such as requesting a finding or termination of an infringement) to the Cartel Court.

In the course of a procedure of this type, the Supreme Cartel Court (KOG) has ordered that several infringements of a dominant position in relation to the distribution of new vehicles and the provision of car servicing be ended (see also press release of 9 April 2021).

In proceedings initiated by third-party applicants, fines may only be imposed by application from the official parties. After thoroughly investigating the facts of the case, the Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) has deemed it necessary to file such an application, particularly for reasons of general deterrence. Abuse of a dominant position is prohibited by law. Decisions such as those reached in the initial proceedings may help all legal subjects to assess admissibility of their market behaviour and to refrain from comparable acts.

The AFCA continues to receive reports of comparable cases to those in the initial proceedings, including some in related or similar industries (see also our Guidance on car distribution, available in German). One of the issues that has a strong economic impact on authorised garages (of various marques) is insufficient compensation for warranty and guarantee work. The information that the AFCA received from the industry suggests that the situation has not improved in many cases, even after the KOG issued its decision.