Home » News » Detail

Construction cartel update: AFCA applies for STEINER BAU to be fined EUR 1.3 million

As part of its investigations into the Austrian construction industry, the Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) filed an application with the Cartel Court on 30.01.2024 to have a fine imposed on STEINER BAU Gesellschaft m.b.H.

In line with the company’s regional focus of activities, STEINER BAU Gesellschaft m.b.H. (hereinafter referred to as “STEINER BAU”) was involved as a joint participant in anti-competitive price fixing and price coordination, market divisions and the exchange of information with competitors in relation to public and private construction tenders, particularly in the Austrian province of Carinthia. Some construction projects in Styria were also affected by the infringement.

STEINER BAU’s actions form part of a wider infringement of cartel law that has occurred across the whole of Austria, with each of the companies involved having participated to varying degrees. The many arranged construction contracts encompass both building construction and civil engineering projects throughout Austria, with road building projects predominating. The collusive behaviour was aimed at reducing or excluding competition, helping each other to win construction contracts and thus securing market shares. The AFCA applied to the Cartel Court to have a fine of EUR 1.3 million imposed on STEINER BAU owing to the company’s involvement as a joint participant.

STEINER BAU cooperated with the AFCA outside the leniency programme to fully clarify the facts of the case, acknowledging the infringement for use in proceedings before the Cartel Court. The AFCA therefore applied for a reduced fine, with the involvement of the Federal Cartel Prosecutor.

Background

The uncovered cartel relates to the economic sector of construction, with a focus on road building projects.

The infringement covers the entire Austrian territory, albeit to varying degrees depending on the company involved. Both public and private clients were affected by these practices, as were a large number of construction projects. Our investigations are still ongoing, while some of the proceedings have been finally concluded.

The companies involved in the infringement engaged in concerted action in order to help each other to win construction contracts, thereby securing market shares and utilising their capacities accordingly, among other things. To reach this common goal, they engaged in illegal price fixing and market divisions, exchanged competitively sensitive information – relating for example to agreements on future behaviour when submitting bids – and in some cases formed anti-competitive working groups and bidding consortia.

The involved companies also agreed on which bidder should win each contract, the price to be offered and the submission of bogus offers, as well as arranging that certain competitors would not submit any bid at all.

FAQ Construction cartel update January 2024

For further information and the latest developments regarding the construction cartel, please refer to our FAQ Construction cartel update January 2024.

Fines for cartels

The Austrian 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.